Skip to main content

Full text of "The soul of Melicent"

See other formats


THE SOUL OF MELICENT 



OTHER BOOKS BY MR. CABELL 



The Eagle's Shadow 

Gallantry 

The Line of Love 

Chivalry 

The Cords of Vanity 



Branchiana 

Branch of Abingdon 




:i Demetrios wrenched the sword from its scabbard" 



THE SOUL OF 
MELICENT 






BY 



JAMES BRANCH CABELL 

ILLUSTRATED IN COLOUR BY 

HOWARD PYLE 




NEW YORK 

FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 






Copyright, igij, by 
Frederick A. Stokes Company 

Copyright, 7Qo8, IQU, by 
Harper and Brothers 



All rights reserved 




September, IQIJ 



©CI.A351680 



TO 
SARAH READ McADAMS 
IN GRATITUDE AND AFFECTION 



a 



how, through Woman-Worship, knaves compound 

With honour e; Kings reck not of their domaine; 
Proud Pontiffs sigh; & War-men world-renownd, 

Toe win one Woman, all things else disdaine; 

Since Melicent doth in herself e contayne 
All this worlds Riches that may fane be found: 

If Saphyres, he, her eies be Saphyres plaine; 
If Rubies, loe, hir lips be Rubyes sound; 
If Pearles, hir teeth be Pearles, both pure & round; 

If Yvorie, her forehead Yvory weene; 
If Gold, her locks with finest Gold abound; 

If Silver, her faire hands have Silvers sheen: 
Yet that which fayrest is, but Few beholde, 
Her Soul adornd with vertues manifold" 



CONTENTS 



PART I 
PERION 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I How Perion was Unmasked .... 3 

II How the Vicomte was Very Gay . . 11 

III How Melicent Wooed Perion .... 14 

IV How Perion Broke Faith with Melusine 23 
V How the Bishop Aided Perion ... 25 

VI How Melicent Wedded Perion . 33 

PART II 
MELICENT 



I How Melicent Sought Perion Oversea 

II How Melicent Bargained . 

III How Perion was Freed .... 

IV How Demetrios was Amused . 
V How the Time Sped in Heathenry 

VI How Flamberge was Drawn 

VII How Ahasuerus was Patient . 

VIII How Demetrios Wooed .... 



4i 

45 
5i 

54 

59 
62 

67 
70 



CONTENTS 



PART III 
DEMETRIOS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I How Demetrios was Taken . . . . jj 

II How They Praised Melicent .... 82 

III How Perion Braved Theodoret ... 87 

IV How Perion Fought in Sannazaro . . 97 
V How Demetrios Meditated 105 

\VI How a Minstrel Came to San Alessandro 109 

VII How They Cried Quits 118 

VIII How Flamberge was Lost 122 

IX How Perion Got Unexpected Aid . . 129 

PART IV 
AHASUERUS 



I How Demetrios Held the Queen's Stair 

way 

II How Demetrios Struggled . 

III How Misery Held Nacumera . 

IV How Demetrios Cried Farewell 
V How Orestes Ruled .... 

VI How Women Talked Together 

VII How Men Ordered Matters 

VIII How Ahasuerus was Candid . 

IX How Perion Saw Melicent 

X How Melicent Cried a New Bargain 

XI How the Jew Told All PIis Plan 

XII How Perion Found Melicent . . 

Afterword 



137 
140 

145 
151 
161 

165 
172 
177 
181 
187 

193 
199 
203 



PART ONE 

PERION 

How Perion, that stalwart was and gay, 
Treadeth with sorrow on a holiday, 
Since Melicent anon must wed a king: 
How in his heart he hath vain love-longing, 
For which he putteth life in forfeiture, 
And would no longer in such wise endure; 
For writhing Perion in Venus' fire 
So burneth that he dieth for desire. 



THE SOUL OF 
MELICENT 

I 

HOW PERION WAS UNMASKED 

PERION afterward remembered the two 
weeks spent at Bellegarde as in recovery 
from illness a person might remember 
some long fever-dream which was all of an in- 
tolerable elvish brightness and of incessant laugh- 
ter everywhere. They made a deal of him in 
Count Emmerick's pleasant home ; and day by day 
the outlaw was thrust into relations of mirth with 
noblemen, proud ladies, and a king even, being 
the while half lightheaded through his singular 
knowledge as to how precariously the self-styled 
Vicomte de Puysange now balanced himself, as it 
were, upon a gilded stepping-stone from infamy 
to oblivion. 

Now that King Theodoret had withdrawn his 
sinister presence, young Perion spent some seven 

[3] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

hours of every day alone, to all intent, with Dame 
Melicent. There would be merry people within 
a stone's throw, it might be, about this recreation 
or another, but these two seemed to watch aloofly, 
as royal persons do the antics of their hired come- 
dians, without any condescension into open inter- 
est. They were together ; and the jostle of earthly 
happenings might hope, at most, to afford them 
matter for incurious comment. 

They sat, as Perion thought, for the last time 
together, part of a vast audience before which 
the Confraternity of St. Medard was enacting 
a masque of The Birth of Hercules. The Bishop 
of Montors had returned to Bellegarde that even- 
ing with his brother, Count Gui, and the pleasure-' 
loving prelate had brought these mirth-makers 
in his train. Clad in scarlet, he rode before them 
playing upon a lute — unclerical conduct which 
shocked his preciser brother and surprised no- 
body. 

In such circumstances Perion began to speak 
with an odd purpose, because his reason was be- 
drugged by the beauty and purity of Melicent, 

[4] 




"The Bishop of Montors had returned' 



PERION IS UNMASKED 

and perhaps a little by the slow and clutching 
music to whose progress the chorus of Theban 
virgins was dancing. When he had made an 
end of harsh whispering, Melicent sat for a while 
in scrupulous appraisement of the rushes. The 
music was so sweet it seemed to Perion he must 
go mad unless she spoke within the moment. 

"You tell me you are not the Vicomte de Puy- 
sange. You tell me you are, instead, the late 
King Hernias' servitor, suspected of his murder. 
You are the fellow that stole the royal jewels — 
the outlaw for whom half-Christendom is search- 
ing — " she began at last; and still he could not 
intercept those huge and tender eyes whose 
purple made the thought of heaven compre- 
hensible. 

"I am that widely hounded Perion of the For- 
est. The true vicomte is the wounded rascal 
whose delirium we marvelled over only last Tues- 
day. Yes, at the door of your home I attacked 
him, fought him — hah, but fairly, madame! — 
and stole his brilliant garments and with them his 
papers. Then in my desperate necessity I dared 

[5] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

to masquerade. For I know enough about 
dancing to estimate that to dance upon air must 
necessarily prove to everybody a disgusting per- 
formance, but pre-eminently so to the main actor. 
Two weeks of safety till the Tranchemer sailed I 
therefore valued at a perhaps preposterous rate. 
To-night, as I have said, the ship lies at anchor 
off Manneville." 

Melicent said an odd thing. 

"Oh, can it be you are a less despicable person 
than you are striving to appear!" 

"Rather I am a more unmitigated fool than 
even I suspected, since when affairs were in a 
promising train I have elected to blurt out, of 
all things, the naked and distasteful truth. Pro- 
claim it now; and see the late Vicomte de Puy- 
sange lugged out of this hall and after appropri- 
ate torture hanged within the month." And with 
that Perion laughed. 

Then he was silent. As the masque went, 
Amphitryon had newly returned from warfare, 
and was singing under Alcmena's window in the 
terms of an aubade, a waking-song. "Rei glo- 

[6] 



PERION IS UNMASKED 

rios, verais lums e clardatz — " he had begun. 
Dame Melicent heard him through. 

And after many ages, as it seemed to Perion, 
the soft and brilliant and exquisite mouth was 
pricked to motion. 

"You have affronted, by an incredible imposture 
and beyond the reach of mercy, every listener in 
this hall. You have injured me most deeply of 
all persons here. Yet it is to me alone that you 
confess. " 

Perion leaned forward. You are to under- 
stand that, through the incurrent necessities of 
every circumstance, each of them spoke in whis- 
pers, even now. It was curious to note the candid 
mirth on either side. Mercury was making his 
adieux to Alcmena's waiting-woman in the mid- 
dle of a jig. 

"But you," sneered Perion, "are merciful in 
all things. Rogue that I am, I dare to build on 
this notorious fact. I am snared in a hard golden 
trap, I cannot get a guide to Manneville, I can- 
not even procure a horse from Count Emmerick's 
stables without arousing fatal suspicions; and I 

[7] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

must be at Manneville by dawn or else be hanged. 
Therefore I dare stake all upon one throw; and 
you must either save or hang me now with un- 
washed hands. As surely as God reigns, my fu- 
ture rests with you. And as I am perfectly 
aware, you could not comfortably live with a 
gnat's death upon your conscience. Eh, am I not 
a seasoned rascal?" 

"Do not remind me now that you are vile," said 
Melicent. "Ah, no, not now I" 

"Lackey, impostor, and thief!" he sternly an- 
swered. "There you have the catalogue of all 
my rightful titles. And besides, it pleases me, 
for a reason I cannot entirely fathom, to be un- 
pardonably candid, to fling my destiny into your 
lap. To-night, as I have said, the Tranchemer 
lies off Manneville ; keep counsel, get me a horse 
if you will, and to-morrow I am embarked for 
desperate service under the harried Kaiser of 
the Greeks from which I am not likely ever to re- 
turn. Speak, and I hang before the month is up." 

Dame Melicent looked at him now, and within 
[8] 



PERION IS UNMASKED 

the moment Perion was repaid, and bountifully, 
for ever folly and misdeed of his entire life. 

"What harm have I ever done you, Messire de 
la Foret, that you should shame me in this fash- 
ion? Until to-night I was not unhappy in the 
belief I was loved by you. I may say that now 
without paltering, since you are not the man I 
thought some day to love. You are but the rind 
of him. And you would force me to cheat justice, 
to become a hunted thief's accomplice, or else to 
murder you!" 

"Undoubtedly, madame." 

"Then I must help you to preserve your life 
by any sorry stratagems you may devise. I shall 
not hinder you. I will procure you a guide to 
Manneville. I will even forgive you all save one 
offence, since doubtless heaven made you the foul 
thing you are." The girl was in a hot and splen- 
did rage. "For you love me. Women know. 
You love me. You!" 

"Undoubtedly, madame." 

"Look into my face ! and say what horrid writ 

[9] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

of infamy you fancied was apparent there, that my 
nails may destroy it." 

"I am all base," he answered, "and yet not so 
profoundly base as you suppose. Nay, believe 
me, I had never hoped to win even such scornful 
kindness as you might accord your lapdog. I 
have but dared to peep at heaven while I might, 
and only as lost Dives did. Ignoble as I am, I 
never dreamed to squire an angel down toward 
the mire and filth which is henceforward my in- 
evitable kennel." 

"The masque is done," said Melicent, "and yet 
you talk, and talk, and talk, and mimic truth so 
cunningly — Well, I will send some trusty per- 
son to you. And now, for God's sake ! — nay, for 
the fiend's love who is your patron! — let me not 
ever see you again, Messire de la Foret." 



[10] 



II 

HOW THE VICOMTE WAS VERY GAY 

THERE was dancing afterward and a 
sumptuous supper. The Vicomte de 
Puysange was generally accounted the 
most excellent of company that evening. He 
mingled affably with the revellers and found a 
prosperous answer for every jest they broke upon 
the projected marriage of Dame Melicent and 
King Theodoret; and meanwhile hugged the re- 
flection that half the realm was hunting Perion de 
la Foret in the more customary haunts of rascal- 
ity. The springs of Perion's turbulent mirth were 
that to-morrow every person in the room would 
discover how impudently he had been tricked, and 
that Melicent deliberated even now, and could not 
but admire, the hunted outlaw's insolence, how- 
ever much she loathed its perpetrator; and over 
this thought in particular Perion laughed like a 
madman. 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

"You are very gay to-night, Messire de Puy- 
sange," said the Bishop of Montors. 

This remarkable young man, it is necessary to 
repeat, had reached Bellegarde that evening, com- 
ing from Brunbelois. It was he (as you have 
heard) who had arranged the match with Theo- 
doret. The bishop himself loved his cousin Meli- 
cent; but, now that he was in holy orders and 
possession of her had become impossible, he had 
cannily resolved to utilise her beauty, as he did 
everything else, toward his own preferment. 

Then the young prelate said, oddly enough, 
" But you have an excellent reason, being now, 
perhaps, so near to heaven/' His glance at Meli- 
cent did not lack pith. 

"No, I have quite another reason," Perion an- 
swered; "it is that to-morrow I must breakfast in 
hell." 

And he thought how true this was when, at the 
evening's end, he was alone in his own room. 
His life was tolerably secure. He trusted Aha- 
suerus the Jew to see to it that, about dawn, one 
of the ship's boats would touch at Fomor Beach 

[12] 



THE VICOMTE IS GAY 

near Manneville, according to their old agree- 
ment. Aboard the Tranchemer the Free Com- 
panions awaited their captain; and the savage 
land they were bound for was a thought beyond 
the reach of a kingdom's lamentable curiosity 
concerning the whereabouts of King Hernias' 
treasure. The worthless life of Perion was safe. 
For worthless, and far less than worthless, life 
seemed to Perion as he thought of Melicent and 
waited for her messenger. He thought of her 
beauty and purity and illimitable loving-kindness 
toward every person in the world saving only 
Perion of the Forest. He thought of how clean 
she was in every thought and deed, and of that, 
above all, he thought, and he knew that he would 
never see her any more; and in his heart there 
was hunger. 



[13] 



Ill 

HOW MELICENT WOOED PERION 

THEN Perion knew that vain regret had 
turned his brain, very certainly, for it 
seemed the door had opened and Dame 
Melicent herself had come, warily, into the pan- 
elled gloomy room. It seemed that Melicent 
paused in the convulsive brilliancy of the firelight, 
and stayed thus with vaguely troubled eyes like 
those of a child newly wakened from sleep. 

And it seemed a long while before she told 
Perion very quietly that she had confessed all to 
Ayrart de Montors, and had, by reason of de 
Montors' love for her, so goaded and allured the 
outcome of their talk — "ignobly," as she said — 
that a clean-handed gentleman would come at 
three o'clock for Perion de la Foret, and guide a 
thief toward unmerited impunity. All this she 
spoke quite levelly, as one reads aloud from a 
book; and then, with a signal change of voice, 

[14] 



MELICENT WOOES PERION 

Melicent said: "Yes, that is true enough. Yet 
why, in reality, do you think I have in my own 
person come to tell you of it?" 

"Madame, I may not guess. Hah, indeed, in- 
deed," Perion cried, because he knew the truth 
and was unspeakably afraid, "I dare not guess !" 

"You sail to-morrow for the fighting over- 
sea — " she began, but her sweet voice trailed and 
died into silence. He heard the crepitations of 
the fire, and even the hurried beatings of his own 
heart, as against a terrible and lovely hush of all 
created life. "Then take me with you." 

Perion had never any recollection of what he 
answered. Indeed, he uttered no communicative 
words, but only many foolish babblements. 

"Oh, I do not understand," said Melicent. "It 
is as though some spell were laid upon me. Look 
you, I have been cleanly reared, I have never 
wronged any person that I know of, and through- 
out my quiet, sheltered life I have loved truth and 
honour most of all. My judgment grants you 
to be what you are confessedly. And there is 
that in me more masterful and surer than my 

[15] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

judgment, that which seems omnipotent and 
lightly puts aside your own confession." 

"Lackey, impostor, and thief!" young Perion 
answered. 'There you have the catalogue of all 
my rightful titles fairly earned." 

"And even if I believe you, I think I would not 
care! Is that not strange? For then I should 
despise you. And even then, I think, I would 
fling my honour at your feet, as I do now, and 
but in part with loathing entreat you to make of 
me your wife, your servant, anything that pleased 
you. . . . Oh, I had thought that when love came 
it would be sweet !" 

Strangely quiet — yes, in every sense — he an- 
swered : 

"It is very sweet. I have known no happier 
moment in my life. For you stand within arm's 
reach, mine to touch, mine to possess and do with 
as I will. And I dare not lift a finger. I am as a 
man that has lain for a long while in a dungeon 
vainly hungering for the glad light of day — who, 
being freed at last, must hide his eyes from the 
dear sunlight he dare not look upon as yet. Ho. 

[16] 



MELICENT WOOES PERION 

I am past speech unworthy of your notice ! and I 
pray you now speak harshly with me, madame, for 
when your pure eyes regard me kindly, and your 
bright and delicate lips have come thus near to 
mine, I am so greatly tempted and so happy that 
I fear lest heaven grow jealous!" 

"Be not too much afraid — " she murmured. 

"Nay, should I then be bold? and within the 
moment wake Count Emmerick to say to him, 
very boldly, 'Beau sire, the thief half-Christen- 
dom is hunting has the honour to request your 
sister's hand in marriage' ?" 

"You sail to-morrow for the fighting oversea. 
Take me with you." 

"Indeed the feat would be quite worthy of me. 
For you are a lady tenderly nurtured and used to 
every luxury the age affords. There comes to 
woo you presently an excellent and potent mon- 
arch, not all unworthy of your love, who will pres- 
ently share with you many happy and honourable 
years. Yonder is a lawless naked wilderness 
where I and my fellow desperadoes hope to cheat 
offended justice of a mere existence. You bid 

[17] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

me aid you to go into this country, never to re- 
turn! Madame, if I obeyed you, Satan would 
protest against pollution of his ageless fires by any 
soul so filthy." 

"You talk of little things, whereas I think of 
great things. Love is not sustained by palatable 
food alone, and is not served only by those persons 
who go about the world in satin." 

"Then take the shameful truth. It is undenia- 
ble I swore I loved you, and with appropriate ges- 
tures, too. But, dompnedex, madame! I am 
past master in these specious ecstasies, for some- 
how I have rarely seen the woman who had not 
some charm or other to catch my heart with. I 
confess now that you alone have never quickened 
it. My only purpose was through hyperbole to 
wheedle you out of a horse, and meanwhile to 
have my recreation, you handsome jade! — and 
that is all you ever meant to me. I swear to you 
that is all, all, all !" sobbed Perion, for it appeared 
that he must die. "I have amused myself with 
you, I have abominably tricked you — " 

Melicent only waited with untroubled eyes 
[18] 



MELICENT WOOES PERION 

which seemed to plumb his heart and to appraise 
all which Perion had ever thought or longed for 
since the day that Perion was born ; and she was 
as beautiful, it seemed to him, as the untroubled, 
gracious angels are, and more compassionate. 

"Yes," Perion said, "I am trying to lie to you. 
And even at lying I fail." 

She said, with a wonderful smile: 

"Assuredly there were never any other persons 
so mad as we. For I must do the wooing, as 
though you were the maid, and all the while you 
rebuff me and suffer so that I fear to look on 
you. Men say you are no better than a high- 
waymen; you confess yourself to be a thief: and 
I believe none of your accusers. Perion de la 
Foret," said Melicent, and ballad-makers have 
never shaped a phrase wherewith to tell you of her 
voice, "I know that you have dabbled in dishonour 
no more often than an archangel has pilfered dry- 
ing linen from a hedgerow. I do not guess, for 
my hour is upon me, and inevitably I know ! and 
there is nothing dares to come between us now." 

"Nay, — ho, and even were matters as you sup- 

[19] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

» 

pose them, without any warrant — there is at least 
one silly stumbling knave that dares as much. 
Saith he: 'What is the most precious thing in 
the world? — Why, assuredly, Dame Melicent's 
welfare. Let me get the keeping of it, then. For 
I have been entrusted with a host of common 
priceless things — with youth and health and hon- 
our, with a clean conscience and a child's faith, 
and so on — and no person alive has squandered 
them more gallantly. So heartward ho ! and trust 
me now, my timorous yokefellow, to win and 
squander also the chief est jewel of the world/ 
Eh, thus he chuckles and nudges me, with wicked 
whisperings. Indeed, madame, this rascal that 
shares equally in my least faculty is a most piti- 
ful, ignoble rogue! and he has aforetime eked 
out our common livelihood by such practices as 
your unsullied imagination could scarcely depic- 
ture. Until I knew you I had endured him. But 
you have made of him a horror. A horror, a 
horror ! a thing too pitiful for hell !" He screened 
his eyes as if before some physical abomination. 
The girl kneeled close to him, touching him. 

[20] 



MELICENT WOOES PERION 

"My dear, my dear ! then slay for me this other 
Perion of the Forest." 

And Perion laughed, although not very mirth- 
fully. 

"It is the common usage of women to ask of 
men this little labour, which is a harder task than 
ever Hercules, that mighty-muscled king of 
heathenry, achieved. Nay, I, for all my sinews, 
am an attested weakling. The craft of other men 
I do not fear, for I have encountered no formida- 
ble enemy, saving only myself ; but that same mid- 
night stabber unhorsed me long ago. I had wal- 
lowed in the mire contentedly enough until you 
came. . . . Ah, child, child! why needed you to 
trouble me! for I want only to be clean as you 
are clean to-night, and that I may not ever be. 
I am garrisoned with devils, I am the battered 
plaything of every vice, and I lack the strength, 
and it may be, even the will, to leave my mire. 
Always I have betrayed the stewardship of man 
and god alike that my body might escape a mo- 
mentary discomfort! And loving you as I do, 
I cannot swear that in the outcome I would not 

[21] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

betray you too, to this same end! I cannot 
swear — ■ Oh, now let Satan laugh, yet not un- 
pitifully, since he and I, alone, know all the rea- 
sons why I may not swear ! Hah, Madame Meli- 
cent!" cried Perion, in his great agony, "you of- 
fer me that gift an emperor might not accept save 
in awed gratitude; and I refuse it." Gently he 
raised her to her feet. "And now, in God's name, 
go, madame, and leave the prodigal among his 
husks." 

"You are a very brave and foolish gentleman," 
she said, "who chooses to face his own achieve- 
ments without any paltering. To every man, I 
think, that must be bitter work; to the woman 
who loves him it is impossible." 

And Perion could not see her face, because he 
lay prone at the feet of Melicent, sobbing, but 
without any tears, and tasting very deeply of such 
grief and vain regret as, he had thought, they 
know in hell alone; and even after she had gone, 
in silence, he lay in this same posture for an ex- 
ceedingly long while. 

[22] 



IV 

HOW PERION BROKE FAITH WITH MELUSINE 

AND after he knew not how long a while, 
Perion propped his chin between his 
hands and, still sprawling upon the 
rushes, stared hard into the little, crackling fire. 
He was thinking of a Perion de la Foret that once 
had been. In him were found fit mate for even 
Melicent had the boy not died — and so long ago ! 
It is no more cheerful than any other mortuary 
employment, this disinterment of the person you 
have been, and are not any longer; and so he 
found it. 

Then Perion arose and looked for pen and ink. 
It was the only letter he ever wrote to Melicent, 
and, as you will presently learn, she never saw it. 

In such terms Perion wrote : 

"Madame — It may please you to remember that when 
Dame Melusine and I were interrogated, I freely con- 
fessed to both the murder of King Helmas and the theft 
of my dead master's jewels. In that I lied. For it was 
my manifest duty to save the woman whom, as I thought, 

[23] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

I loved, and it was apparent that the guilty person was 
either she or I. 

"She is now at Brunbelois, where, as I have heard, 
the splendour of her estate is tolerably notorious. I have 
not ever heard she gave a thought to me, her cat's-paw. 
Madame, when I think of you and then of that sleek, 
smiling woman, I am appalled by my own folly. I am 
aghast by my long blindness as I write the words which 
no one will believe. For what need now to deny a crime 
which every circumstance imputed to me and my own 
confession has publicly acknowledged? 

"But you, I think, will believe me. Look you, ma- 
dame, I have nothing to gain of you. I shall not ever 
see you any more. I go into a perilous and an eternal 
banishment; and in the immediate neighbourhood of 
death a man finds little sustenance for romance. Take 
the worst of me : a gentleman I was born, and as a was- 
trel I have lived, and always very foolishly ; but without 
dishonour. I have never to my knowledge — and God 
judge me as I speak the truth! — wronged any man or 
woman save myself. My dear, believe me! believe me, 
in spite of reason ! and understand that my adoration and 
misery and unworthiness when I think of you are such 
as I cannot measure, and afford me no judicious moment 
wherein to fashion lies. For I shall not see you any 
more. 

"I thank you, madame, for your all-unmerited kind- 
nesses, and, oh, I pray you to believe !" 

[24] 



HOW THE BISHOP AIDED PERION 

THEN at three o'clock, as Perion supposed, 
some one tapped upon the door. Perion 
went out into the corridor, which was 
now unlighted, so that he had to hold to the cloak 
of Ayrart de Montors as the young prelate guided 
Perion through the complexities of unfamiliar 
halls and stairways into an inhospitable night. 
There were here two horses, and presently the 
men were mounted and away. 

Once only Perion shifted in the saddle to glance 
back at Bellegarde, black and formless against an 
empty sky ; and he dared not look again, for the 
thought of her that lay awake in the Marshal's 
Tower, so near at hand as yet, was like a dagger. 
With set teeth he followed in the wake of his taci- 
turn companion. The bishop never spoke save to 
growl out some direction. 

Thus they came to Manneville and past it to 

[25] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Fomor Beach, a narrow sandy coast. It was 
dark in this place and very still save for the en- 
croachment of the tide. Yonder were four little 
lights, lazily heaving with the water's motion, to 
show them where the Tranchemer lay at anchor. 
It did not seem to Perion that anything mattered, 

"It will be nearing dawn by this," he said. 

"Ay," Ayrart de Montors said, very briefly; 
and his tone evinced his willingness to dispense 
with any further conversation. Perion of the 
Forest was an unclean thing which he must touch 
in his necessity, but could touch with loathing 
only, as a thirsty man takes a fly out of his drink. 
Perion conceded it, because nothing would ever 
matter any more ; and so, the horses tethered, they 
sat upon the sand in utter silence for the space of 
a half hour. 

A bird cried somewhere, just once, and with a 
start Perion knew it was not quite so murky as it 
had been, for he could see a broken line of white 
now where the tide crept up and shattered and 
ebbed. Then in a while a light sank tipsily to the 
water's level and presently was bobbing in the 

[26] 



THE BISHOP AIDS PERION 

darkness, apart from those other lights, and ever 
growing in brilliancy. 

Said Perion : "They have sent out the boat." 

"Ay," the bishop answered, as before. 

A sort of madness came upon Perion, and it 
seemed that he must weep, because everything 
fell out so very ill in this world. 

"Messire, you have aided me. I would be 
grateful if you permitted it." 

De Montors spoke at last, and crisply : "Grat- 
itude, I take it, forms no part of the bargain. I 
am the kinsman of Dame Melicent. It makes for 
my interest and for the honour of our house that 
the man whose rooms she visits at night be got 
out of Poictesme — " 

Said Perion: "You speak in this fashion of 
the most lovely lady God has made — of her whom 
the world adores !" 

"Adores!" the bishop answered, with a laugh; 
"and what poor gull am I to adore an attested 
wanton?" Then, with a sneer, he spoke of Meli- 
cent, and in such terms as are not bettered by 
repetition. 

C27] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Per ion said: "I am the most unhappy man 
alive, as surely as you are the most ungenerous. 
For, look you, in my presence you have spoken 
infamy of Dame Melicent, though knowing I am 
in your debt so deeply that I have not the right to 
resent anything you may elect to say. You have 
just given me my life ; and armoured by the fire- 
new obligation, you blaspheme an angel, you con- 
descend to buffet a fettered man — " And with 
that his sluggish wits had spied an honest way out 
of the imbroglio. 

Perion said only: "Draw, messire! for, as 
God lives, I may yet repurchase, though at the 
eleventh hour, the privilege of destroying you." 

"Heyday! but here is an odd evincement of 
gratitude!" de Montors retorted; "and though I 
am not particularly squeamish, let me tell you, my 
fine fellow, I do not ordinarily fight with lackeys." 

"Nor are you fit to do so, messire. Believe me, 
there is not a lackey in the realm — no, not a cut- 
purse — but would degrade himself in meeting you 
on equal footing. For you have slandered that 
which is most perfect in the world; yet lies, Mes- 

[28] 



THE BISHOP AIDS PERION 

sire de Montors, have short legs; and I design 
within the hour to insure the calumny against an 
echo." 

"Rogue, I have given you your very life within 
the hour— " 

"The fact is undeniable. So I must fling the 
bounty back to you that we may meet as equals." 
Perion wheeled toward the boat, which was now 
within the reach of wading. "Who is among 
you? Gaucelm, Roger, Jean Britauz — " He 
found the man he sought. "Ahasuerus, the cap- 
tain that was to have accompanied the Free Com- 
panions oversea is of another mind. I cede my 
leadership to Landry de Bonnay. You will have 
the kindness, if I may make so bold, to inform him 
of the unlooked-for change, and to tender your 
new captain every appropriate regret and the dy- 
ing felicitations of Perion de la Foret." 

He bowed toward the landward twilight, where 
the sand hillocks were taking form. 

"Messire de Montors, we may now resume our 
vigil. When yonder vessel sails there will be no 
conceivable happening that can keep breath within 

[29] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

my body two months longer. I shall be quit of 
every debt to you. You will then fight with a 
man already dead if you so elect ; but otherwise — 
if you attempt to flee this place, if you decline to 
cross swords with a lackey, with a convicted thief, 
with a suspected murderer, I swear upon my 
mother's honour! I will demolish you without 
compunction as I would any other vermin." 

"Oh, brave, brave!" sneered the bishop, "to 
fling away your life, and perhaps mine too, for an 
idle word — " But at that he fetched a sob. 
"How foolish of you ! and how like you \" he said, 
and Perion seemed now to hear the voice of 
Melicent. 

"Hey, gentlemen!" cried Ayrart de Montors, 
"a moment if you please!" He splashed knee- 
deep into the icy water, wading to the boat, where 
he snatched the lantern from the Jew's hands and 
fetched this light ashore. He held it aloft, so 
that Perion might see his face, and Perion per- 
ceived that by some wonder-working it was Meli- 
cent in man's attire who held this light aloft. It 
was odd that Perion always remembered after- 

[30] 



THE BISHOP AIDS PERION 

ward most clearly of all the loosened wisp of hair 
the wind tossed about her forehead. 

"Look well upon me, Perion," said Melicent. 
"Look well, ruined gentleman! look well, poor 
hunted vagabond ! and note how proud I am. Oh, 
in all things I am very proud ! A little I exult in 
my high station and in my wealth, and, yes, even 
in my beauty, for I know that I am beautiful, but 
the chief of all my honours is that you love me — 
and so foolishly !" 

"You do not understand — !" cried Perion. 

"Rather I understand at last that you are in 
sober verity a lackey, an impostor, and a thief, 
even as you said. Ay, a lackey to your honour ! 
an impostor that would endeavour — and, oh, so 
very vainly ! — to impersonate another's baseness ! 
and a thief that has stolen another person's pun- 
ishment ! I ask no questions ; loving means trust- 
ing ; but I would like to kill that other person very, 
very slowly. I ask no questions, but I dare to 
trust the man I know of, even in defiance of that 
man's own voice. I dare protest the man no 
thief, but in all things a madly honourable gentle- 

[31] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

man. My poor bruised, puzzled boy," said Meli- 
cent, with an odd mirthful tenderness, "how came 
you to be blundering about this miry world of 
ours ! Only be very good for my sake and forget 
the bitterness ; what does it matter when there is 
happiness, too?" 

He answered nothing, but it was not because 
of misery. 

"Come, come, will you not even help me into 
the boat ?" said Melicent. She, too, was glad. 



[321 



VI 

HOW MELICENT WEDDED PERION 

THAT may not be, my cousin." 
It was the real Bishop of Montors 
who was speaking. His company, some 
fifteen men in all, had ridden up in the noise- 
muffling sand while Melicent and Perion looked 
seaward. The bishop was clothed, in his habitual 
fashion, as a cavalier, showing in nothing as a 
churchman. He sat a-horseback for a consider- 
able while, looking down at them, smiling and 
stroking the pommel of his saddle with a gold- 
fringed glove. It was now dawn. 

"I have been eavesdropping/' the bishop said. 
His voice was tender, for the young man loved 
his kinswoman with an affection second only to 
that which he reserved for Ayrart de Montors. 
"Yes, I have been eavesdropping for an instant, 
and through that instant I seemed to see the heart 
of every woman that ever lived ; and they differed 

[33] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

only as stars differ on a fair night in August. 
No woman ever loved a man except, at bottom, 
as a mother loves her child : let him elect to build 
a nation or to write imperishable verses or to 
take purses upon the highway, and she will only 
smile to note how breathlessly the boy goes about 
his playing; and when he comes back to her with 
grimier hands she is a little sorry, and, if she 
think it salutary, will pretend to be angry. Mean- 
while she sets about the quickest way to cleanse 
him and to heal his bruises. They are more wise 
than we, and at the bottom of their hearts they pity 
us more stalwart folk whose grosser wits require, 
to be quite sure of anything, a mere crass proof 
of it ; and always they make us better by indomita- 
bly believing we are better than in reality a man 
can ever be." 

Now Ayrart de Montors dismounted. 

"So much for my sermon. For the rest, 
Messire de la Foret, I perfectly recognised you on 
the first day you came to Bellegarde. But I said 
nothing. For that you had not murdered King 
Helmas, as is popularly reported, I was certain, 

[34] 



MELICENT WEDS PERION 

inasmuch as I happen to know that he is now at 
Brunbelois, where Dame Melusine holds his per- 
son and his treasury. A terrible, delicious 
woman! begotten on a water-demon, people say. 
I ask no questions. She is a close and useful 
friend to me, and through her aid I hope to go far. 
You see that I am frank. It is my nature." The 
bishop shrugged. "In a phrase, I accepted the 
Vicomte de Puysange, although it was necessary, 
of course, to keep an eye upon your comings in 
and your goings out, as you now see. And until 
this the imposture amused me. But this" — his 
hand waved toward the Tranchemer — "this, my 
fair friends, is past a jest." 

"You talk and talk," cried Perion, "and I only 
realise that I love the fairest lady who at any 
time has had life upon earth." 

"The proof of your affection," the bishop re- 
turned, "is, if you will permit the observation, 
somewhat extraordinary. For you propose, I 
gather, to make of her a camp-follower, a soldier's 
drab. Come, come, messire! you and I are con- 
versant with warfare as it is. Armies do not con- 

[35] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

duct it by throwing sugar-candy at one another. 
What home have you, a landless man, to offer 
Melicent? What place is there for Melicent 
among your Free Companions ?" 

"Oh, do I not know that!" said Perion. He 
turned to Melicent, and long and long they gazed 
upon each other. 

"Ignoble as I am," said Perion, "I never 
dreamed to squire an angel down toward the mire 
and filth which for a while as yet must be my 
kennel. I go. I go alone. Do you bid me re- 
turn?" 

The girl was perfectly calm. She took a ring 
of diamonds from her hand, and placed it on his 
little finger, because the others were too large. 

"While life endures I pledge you faith and 
service, Perion. There is no need to speak of 
love." 

"There is no need," he answered. "Oh, does 
God think that I will live without you !" 

"I suppose they will give me to King Theo- 
doret. The terrible old man has set my body as 
the only price that will buy him off from ravaging 

[36] 



MELICENT WEDS PERION 

Poictesme, and he is stronger in the field than 
Emmerick. Emmerick is afraid of him, and 
Ayrart here has need of his friendship in order 
to become a cardinal. So my kinsmen must make 
traffic of my eyes and lips and hair. But first I 
wed you, Perion, here in the sight of God, and 
I bid you return to me, your wife and servitor for 
ever now, whatever men may do." 

"I will return," he said. 

Then in a little while she withdrew her lips from 
his lips. 

"Cover my face, Ayrart. It may be I shall 
weep presently. Men must not see the wife of 
Perion weep. Cover my face, for he is going 
now, and I cannot watch his going." 



[37] 



PART TWO 

MELICENT 

Of how through love is Melicent upcast 
Under a heathen castle at the last: 
And how a wicked lord of proud degree, 
Demetrios, dwelleth in this country. 
Where humbled under him are all mankind: 
How to this wretched woman he hath mind, 
That fallen is in pagan lands alone, 
In point to die, as presently is shown. 



HOW MELICENT SOUGHT PERION OVERSEA 

IT is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, 
telling how love began between Perion of 
the Forest, who was a captain of mercenaries, 
and young Melicent, who was sister to Count Em- 
merick of Poictesme. They tell also how these 
two parted, since there was no remedy, and policy 
demanded she should wed King Theodoret. 

And the tale tells how Perion sailed with his 
retainers to seek desperate service under the har- 
ried Kaiser of the Greeks. 

This venture was ill-fated, since, as the Free 
Companions were passing not far from Masillia, 
their vessel being at the time becalmed, they were 
attacked by three pagan galleys under the 
admiralty of the proconsul Demetrios. For Pe- 
rion's men, who fought so hardily on land, were 
novices at sea. They were powerless against an 
adversary who, from a great distance, showered 
liquid fire upon their vessel. 

[41] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Then Demetrios sent little boats and took some 
thirty prisoners from the blazing ship, and made 
slaves of all save Ahasuerus the Jew, whom he 
released on being informed of the lean man's re- 
ligion. It was a customary boast of this Deme- 
trios that he made war on Christians only. 

And presently, as Perion had commanded, 
Ahasuerus came to Melicent. 

The princess sat in a high chair, the back of 
which was capped with a big lion's head in brass. 
It gleamed above her head, but was less glorious 
than her bright hair. 

Ahasuerus made dispassionate report. "Thus 
painfully I have delivered, as my task was, these 
fine messages concerning Faith and Love and 
Death and so on. Touching their rationality I may 
reserve my own opinion. I am merely Perion's 
echo. Do I echo madness? This madman was 
my loved and honored master once, a lord without 
any peer in the fields where men contend in battle. 
To-day those sinews which preserved a throne are 
dedicated to the transportation of luggage. Grant 
it is laughable. I do not laugh." 

[42] 




'Demetrios sent little boats' 



MELICENT SEEKS PERION 

"And I lack time to weep," said Melicent. 

So, when the Jew had told his tale and gone, 
young Melicent arose and went into a chamber 
painted with the histories of Jason and Medea, 
where her brother Count Emmerick hid many 
jewels, such as had not their fellows in Christen- 
dom. 

She did not hesitate. She knew that Perion 
was in captivity and might not look for aid from 
any person living save herself. 

She gathered in a blue napkin such emeralds 
as would ransom a pope. She cut short her mar- 
vellous hair and disguised herself in all things 
as a man, and under cover of the ensuing night 
slipped from the castle. At Manneville she found 
a Venetian ship bound homeward with a cargo of 
swords and armour. 

She hired herself to the captain of this vessel 
as a servant, calling herself Jocelin Gaignars. 
She found no time wherein to be afraid or to 
grieve for the estate she was relinquishing, so 
long as Perion lay in danger. 

Thus the young Jocelin, though not without 

[43] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

much hardship and odd by-ends of adventure here 
irrelevant, came with time's course into a land 
of sunlight and much wickedness where Perion 
was. 

There the boy found in what fashion Perion was 
living and won the dearly purchased misery of 
seeing him, from afar, in his deplorable condition, 
as Perion went through the outer yard of Nacu- 
mera laden with chains and carrying great logs 
toward the kitchen. This befell when Jocelin had 
come into the hill country, where the eyrie of 
Demetrios blocked a crag-hung valley as snugly 
as a stone chokes a gutter-pipe. 

Young Jocelin had begged an audience of this 
heathen lord and had obtained it — though Jocelin 
did not know as much — with ominous facility. 



[44] 



II 

HOW MELICENT BARGAINED 

DEMETRIOS lay on a divan within the 
Court of Stars, through which you 
passed from the fortress into the Wom- 
en's Garden and the luxurious prison where he 
kept his wives. This court was circular in form 
and was paved with red and yellow slabs, laid al- 
ternately, like a chess-board. In the centre was 
a fountain, which cast up a tall thin jet of water. 
A gallery extended around the place, supported by 
columns that had been painted scarlet and were 
gilded with fantastic designs. The walls were 
of the colour of claret and were adorned with 
golden cinquefoils regularly placed. From a dis- 
tance they resembled stars, and so gave the en- 
closure its name. 

Demetrios lay upon a long divan which was 
covered with crimson and encircled the court en- 
tirely, save for the apertures of its two entrances. 

[45] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Demetrios was of burly person, which he by or- 
dinary, as to-day, adorned resplendently ; of a 
stature little above the common size, and dispro- 
portionately broad as to his chest and shoulders. 
It was rumoured that he could bore an apple 
through with his forefinger and had once killed 
a refractory horse with a blow of his naked fist; 
nor looking on the man, did you presume to ques- 
tion the report. His eyes were large and inso- 
lent, coloured like onyxes ; and for the rest, he had 
a handsome surly face which was disfigured by 
pimples. 

He did not speak at all while Jocelin explained 
his errand was to ramson Perion. Then, "At 
what price ?" Demetrios said, without any sign of 
interest ; and Jocelin, with many encomiums, dis- 
played his emeralds. 

"Ay, they are well enough," Demetrios agreed. 
"But then I have a superfluity of jewels." 

He raised himself a little among the cushions, 
and in this moving the figured golden stuff in 
which he was clothed heaved and glittered like 
the scales of a splendid monster. He leisurely 

[46] 



NOW MELICENT BARGAINS 

unfastened the great chrysoberyl, big as a hen's 
egg, which adorned his fillet. 

"Look you, this is of a far more beautiful green 
than any of your trinkets. I think it is as valua- 
ble also, because of its huge size. Moreover, it 
turns red by lamplight — red as blood. That is an 
admirable colour. And yet I do not value it. I 
think I do not value anything. So I will make 
you a gift of this big coloured pebble, if you desire 
it, because your ignorance amuses me. Most peo- 
ple know Demetrios is not a merchant. He does 
not buy and sell. That which he has he keeps, 
and that which he desires he takes." 

The boy was all despair. He did not speak. 
He was very handsome as he stood in that still 
place where everything excepting him was red and 
gold. 

"You do not value my poor chrysoberyl? You 
value your friend more ? It is a page out of Theo- 
critos — 'when there were golden men of old, when 
friends gave love for love.' And yet I could have 
sworn — Come now, a wager," purred Deme- 
trios. "Show your contempt of this bauble to 

[47] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

be as great as mine by throwing it, say, into the 
gallery, for the next passer-by to pick up, and I 
will credit your sincerity. Do that and I will even 
name my price for Perion." 

The boy obeyed him without hesitation. Turn- 
ing, he saw the horrid change in the intent eyes 
of Demetrios, and he quailed before it. But in- 
stantly that flare of passion flickered out. 

Demetrios gently said: "A bargain is a bar- 
gain. My wives are beautiful, but their caresses 
annoy me as much as formerly they pleased me. 
I have long thought it would perhaps amuse me 
if I had a Christian wife with eyes like violets 
and hair like gold and of a plump white person. 
A man tires very soon of ebony and amber. . . . 
Procure me such a wife and I will willingly re- 
lease this Perion and all his fellows who are yet 
alive/' 

"But, seignior/' — and the boy was shaken now 
— "you demand of me an impossibility !" 

"I am so hardy as to think not. And my rea- 
son is that a man throws from the elbow only, but 
a woman with her whole arm." 

[48] 



NOW MELICENT BARGAINS 

There fell a silence now. 

"Why, look you, I deal fairly, though. Were 
such a woman here — Demetrios of Anatolia's 
guest — I verily believe I would not hinder her de- 
parture, as I might easily do. For there is not 
a person within many miles of this place who con- 
siders it wholesome to withstand me. Yet were 
this woman purchasable, I would purchase. And 
— if she refused — I would not hinder her depar- 
ture ; but very certainly I would put Perion to the 
Torment of the Water-drops. It is so droll to 
see a man go mad before your eyes, I think that 
I would laugh and quite forget the woman." 

She said : "O God, I cry to You for justice !" 

He answered: "My good girl, in Nacumera 
the wishes of Demetrios are justice. But we 
waste time. You desire to purchase one of my 
belongings ? So be it. I will hear your offer." 

Just once her hands had gripped each other. 
Her arms fell now as if they had been drained of 
life. She spoke in a dull voice. 

"I offer Melicent who was a princess. I cry 
a price for red lips and bright eyes and a fair 

[49] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

woman's tender body without any blemish. I cry 

a price for youth and happiness and honour. 

These you may have for playthings, seignior, with 

everything which I possess, except my heart, for 

that is dead." 

Demetrios asked : "Is this true speech ?" 

She answered: "It is as sure as Love and 

Death. I know that nothing is more sure than 

these, and I praise God for it." 

He chuckled, saying: "Platitudes break no 

bones." 



[50] 



Ill 

HOW PERION WAS FREED 

ON the next day the chains were filed from 
Perion de la Foret and all his fellows, 
save the nine unfortunates whom Deme- 
trios had appointed to fight with lions a month 
before this, when he had entertained the Soldan 
of Bacharia. These men were bathed and per- 
fumed and richly clad. 

A galley of the proconsul's fleet conveyed them 
toward Christendom and set the twoscore slaves 
of yesterday ashore not far from Megaris. The 
captain of the galley on departure left with Perion 
a blue napkin, wherein were wrapped large em- 
eralds and a bit of parchment as well. 
It read : 

"Not these, but the body of Melicent, who was 
once a princess, purchased your bodies. Yet these will 
buy you ships and men and swords with which to storm 
my house where Melicent now is. Come if you will 
and fight with Demetrios of Anatolia for that brave girl 

[51] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

who loved a porter as all loyal men should love their 
Maker and customarily do not I think it would amuse 
us." 

Then Perion stood by the languid sea which 
severed him from Melicent and cried: "O God, 
that hast permitted this hard bargain, trade now 
with me ! now barter with me, O Father of us all ! 
That which a man has I will give." 

He stood in the clear sunlight with no more 
wavering in his face than you may find in the 
next statue's. Both hands strained toward the 
blue sky, as though he made a vow. If so, he did 
not break it. 

And now no more of Perion. 

At the same hour young Melicent, wrapped all 
about with a flame-coloured veil and crowned with 
ma j oram, was led by a spruce boy toward a 
threshold, over which Demetrios lifted her, while 
many people sang in a strange tongue. And then 
she paid her pitiable ransom. 

"Hymen, O Hymen !" they sang. "Do thou of 
many names and many temples, golden Aphrodite, 
be propitious to this bridal! Now let him first 

[52] 



NOW PERION IS FREED 

compute the glittering stars of midnight and the 
grasshoppers of a summer day who would count 
the joys this bridal shall bring about ! Hymen, O 
Hymen, rejoice thou in this bridal !" 



[53] 



IV 

HOW DEMETRIOS WAS AMUSED 

NOW Melicent abode in the house of Deme- 
trios, whom she had not seen since the 
morning after he had wedded her. A 
month had passed. As yet she could not under- 
stand the language of her fellow prisoners, but 
Halaon, a eunuch who had once served a cardinal 
in Tuscany, informed her the proconsul was in the 
West Provinces, where an invading force had 
landed under Ranulph de Meschines. 

A month had passed. She woke one night from 
dreams of Perion — what else should women dream 
of? — and found the same Ahasuerus that had 
brought her news of Perion's captivity, so long 
ago, attendant at her bedside. 

He seemed a prey to some half-scornful mirth. 
In speech, at least, the man was of entire discre- 
tion. "The Splendour of the World desires your 
presence, madame." Thus the Jew blandly spoke. 

[54] 



DEMETRIOS IS AMUSED 

She cried, aghast at so much treachery, "You 
had planned this !" 

He answered: "I plan always. Oh, cer- 
tainly, I must weave always as the spider does. 
. . . Meanwhile time passes. I, like you, am now 
the servitor of Demetrios. I am his factor now 
at Calonak. I buy and sell. I estimate ounces. 
I earn my wages. Who forbids it?" Here the 
Jew shrugged. "And to conclude, the Splen- 
dour of the World desires your presence, 
madame." 

He seemed to get much joy of this mouth-filling 
periphrasis as sneeringly he spoke of their com- 
mon master. 

Now Melicent, in a loose robe of green Coan 
stuff shot through and through with a radiancy 
like that of copper, followed the thin, smiling Jew 
Ahasuerus. She came thus with bare feet into 
the Court of Stars, where the proconsul lay on the 
divan as though he had not ever moved from there. 
But to-night he was clothed in scarlet, and bar- 
baric ornaments dangled from his pierced ears. 

[55] 



THE SOUL OF M ELI CENT 

These glittered now that his head moved a little 
as he silently dismissed Ahasuerus from the Court 
of Stars. 

Real stars were overhead, so brilliant and (it 
seemed) so near they turned the fountain's jet 
into a spurt of melting silver. The moon was set, 
but there was a flaring lamp of iron high as a 
man's shoulder yonder where Demetrios lay. 

"Stand close to it, my wife," said the proconsul, 
"in order I may see my newest purchase very 
clearly." She obeyed him ; and esteemed the sac- 
rifice, however unendurable, which bought for 
Perion the chance to serve God and his love for 
her by valorous and commendable actions to be no 
cause for grief. 

"I think with those old men who sat upon the 
walls of Troy," Demetrios said, and laughed be- 
cause his voice had shaken so. "Meanwhile I have 
returned from crucifying a hundred of your fel- 
low worshippers," Demetrios continued. His 
speech had an odd sweetness. "Ey, yes, I con- 
quered at Yroga. It was a good fight. My 
horse's hoofs were red at its conclusion. My sur- 

[56] 



DEMETRIOS IS AMUSED 

viving opponents I consider to have been deplora- 
ble fools when they surrendered, for people die 
less painfully in battle. There was one fellow, a 
Franciscan monk, who hung six hours upon a 
palm tree, always turning his head from one side 
to the other. It was amusing." 

She answered nothing. 

"And I was wondering always how I would 
feel were you nailed in his place. It was curious 
I should have thought of you. . . . But your 
white flesh is like the petals of a flower. I sup- 
pose it is as readily destructible. I think you 
would not long endure/' 

"I pray God hourly that I may not !" said tense 
Melicent. 

He was a little pleased to have wrung even one 
cry of anguish from this lovely effigy. He mo- 
tioned her to him and laid one hand upon her 
naked breast. He gave a gesture of distaste. 
"No, you are not afraid. However, you are very 
beautiful. I thought that you would please me 
more when your gold hair had grown a trifle 
longer. There is nothing in the world so beauti- 

[57] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

ful as golden hair. Its beauty weathers even the 
commendation of poets." 

No power of motion seemed to be in this white 
girl, but certainly you could detect no fear. Her 
clinging robe shone like an opal in the lamplight, 
and her face was very fair. Her eyes implored 
you, but only as those of a trapped animal beseech 
the mercy it does not really hope for. 

In the man's heart woke now some comprehen- 
sion of the nature of her love for Perion, of that 
high and alien madness which dared to make of 
Demetrios of Anatolia's will an unavoidable dis- 
comfort, and no more. The prospect was allur- 
ing. The proconsul began to chuckle as water 
pours from a jar, and the gold in his ears twinkled. 

"Decidedly I shall get much mirth of you. Go 
back to your own rooms. I had thought the world 
afforded no adversary and no game worthy of 
Demetrios. I have found both. Therefore, go 
back to your own rooms," he gently said. 



[58] 



HOW THE TIME SPED IN HEATHENRY 

ON the next day Melicent was removed 
to more magnificent apartments, and 
lodged in a lofty and spacious pavilion, 
having three porticoes builded of marble and 
carved teakwood and Andalusian copper. Her 
rooms were spread with gold-worked carpets and 
hung with tapestries and brocaded silks figured 
with all manner of beasts and birds in their proper 
colors. Such was the girl's home now, where 
only happiness was denied to her. Many slaves 
attended Melicent, and she lacked for nothing in 
luxury and riches and things of price ; and there- 
after she abode at Nacumera, to all appearances, 
as the favorite among the proconsul's wives. 

It must be recorded of Demetrios that hence- 
forth he scrupulously demurred even to touch her 
hand. "I have purchased your body," he proudly 
said, "and I have taken seizin. I find I do not 
care for anything which can be purchased." 

[59] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

It may be that the man was never sane; it is 
indisputable that the mainspring of his least ac- 
tion was an inordinate pride. Here he had 
stumbled upon something which made of Deme- 
trios of Anatolia a temporary discomfort, and 
which bedwarfed the utmost reach of his ill-doing 
into equality with the molestations of a house-fly; 
and perception of this fact worked in Demetrios 
like a poisonous ferment. To beg or once again 
to pillage he thought equally unworthy of himself. 
"Let us have patience." It was not easily said so 
long as this fair Frankish woman dared to enter- 
tain a passion which Demetrios could not compre- 
hend, and of which Demetrios was, and knew him- 
self to be, incapable. 

A connoisseur of passions, he resented such be- 
littlement tempestuously; and he heaped every 
luxury upon Melicent, because as he assured him- 
self, the heart of every woman is alike. 

He had his theories, his cunning, and, chief of 
all, an appreciation of her beauty, as his abettors. 
She had her memories and her clean heart. They 
duelled thus accoutred. 

[60] 



NOW THE TIME SPEEDS 

Meanwhile his other wives peered from 
screened alcoves at these two and duly hated Meli- 
cent. Upon no less than three occasions did Cal- 
listion — the first wife of the proconsul and the 
mother of his elder son — attempt the life of Meli- 
cent; and thrice Demetrios spared the woman at 
Melicent's entreaty. For Melicent (since she 
loved Per ion) could understand that it was love 
of Demetrios, rather than hate of her, which 
drove the Dacian virago to extremities. 



[61] 



VI 

HOW FLAMBERGE WAS DRAWN 

ONE day about noon Demetrios came un- 
heralded into Melicent's resplendent 
prison. Through an aisle of painted 
pillars he came to her, striding with unwonted 
quickness, glittering as he moved. His robe this 
day was scarlet, the colour he chiefly affected. 
Gold glowed upon his forehead, gold dangled from 
his ears, and about his throat was a broad collar 
of gold and rubies. At his side was a cross- 
handled sword in a scabbard of blue leather curi- 
ously ornamented. 

"Give thanks, my wife," Demetrios said, "that 
you are beautiful. For beauty was ever the spur 
of valour." Then quickly, joyously, he told her 
of how a fleet of King Theodoret's had been de- 
spatched against his province and of how among 
the invaders were Perion of the Forest and his 
Free Companions. "Ey, yes, my porter has re- 

[62] 



FLAMBERGE IS DRAWN 

turned. I ride instantly for the coast to greet him 
with appropriate welcome. I pray heaven it is no 
sluggard or weakling that is come out against 
me." 

Proudly Melicent replied: "There comes 
against you a champion of noted deeds, a courte- 
ous and hardy gentleman, pre-eminent at sword- 
play. There was never any man more ready 
than Perion to break a lance or shatter a shield, 
or more eager to succour the helpless and put to 
shame all cowards and traitors." 

Demetrios dryly said: "I do not question that 
the virtues of my porter are innumerable. There- 
fore we will not attempt to catalogue them. Now 
Ahasuerus reports that even before you came to 
tempt me with your paltry emeralds you once 
held the life of Perion in your hands?" Deme- 
trios unfastened his sword. He grasped the hand 
of Melicent, and laid it upon the scabbard. "And 
what do you hold now, my wife ? You hold the 
death of Perion. I take the antithesis to be a 
neat one." 

She answered nothing. Her seeming indiffer- 

[63] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

ence angered him. Demetrios wrenched the 
sword from its scabbard, with a hard violence 
that made Melicent recoil. He showed the blade 
all covered with grey symbols of which she could 
make nothing. 

"This is Flamberge," said the proconsul; "the 
sword- which Galas made in our forefathers' hey- 
day for Charlemaigne. Clerks declare it is a 
magic weapon and that the man who wields it 
is unconquerable. I do not know. I think it is 
as difficult to believe in sorcery as it is to be en- 
tirely sure of its non-existence. I very potently 
believe, however, that with this sword I shall kill 
Perion." 

Melicent had plenty of patience, but astonish- 
ingly little, it seemed, for this sort of speech. "I 
think that you talk foolishly, seignior. And, 
other matters apart, it is manifest that you your- 
self concede Perion to be the better swordsman, 
since you require to be abetted by sorcery before 
you dare to face him." 

"So, so I" Demetrios said, in a sort of grinding 

[6 4 ] 



FLAMBERGE IS DRAWN 

whisper, "you think that I am not the equal of 
this long-legged fellow ! You would think other- 
wise if I had him here. You will think other- 
wise when I have killed him with my naked hands. 
Oh, very soon you will think otherwise." 

He snarled, rage choking him, flung the sword 
at her feet and quitted her without any leave- 
taking. He had ridden three miles from Nacu- 
mera before he began to laugh. He realised that 
Melicent at least believed in sorcery and had 
tricked him out of Flamberge by playing upon 
his tetchy vanity. Her adroitness pleased him. 

Demetrios did not laugh when he found Theo- 
doret's fleet had been ingloriously repulsed at sea 
by the Emir of Arsuf and had never effected a 
landing. Demetrios picked a quarrel with the 
victorious admiral and killed the marplot in a 
public duel, but that was inadequate comfort. 

"However," the proconsul reassured himself, 
"if my wife reports at all truthfully as to this 
Perion's nature it is certain that this Perion will 
come again." Then Demetrios went into the sa- 

[65] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

cred grove upon the hillsides south of Quesiton 
and made an offering of myrtle-branches, rose- 
leaves and incense to Aphrodite of Colias. 



[66] 



VII 

HOW AHASUERUS WAS PATIENT 

AHASUERUS came and went at will. 
Nothing was known concerning this 
soft-treading furtive man except by the 
proconsul, who had no confidants. By his de- 
cree Ahasuerus was an honoured guest at Nacu- 
mera. And always the Jew's eyes when Meli- 
cent was near him were as expressionless as the 
eyes of a snake, which do not ever change. 

Once she told Demetrios that she feared Ahasu- 
erus. 

"But I do not fear him, though I have larger 
reason. For I alone of all men living know the 
truth concerning this same Jew. Therefore, it 
amuses me to think he is my factor and ciphers 
over my accounts." 

Demetrios laughed, and had the Jew sum- 
moned. This was in the Women's Garden, where 
the proconsul sat with Melicent in a little domed 
pavilion of stone-work which was gilded with red 

[67] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

gold and crowned with a cupola of alabaster. Its 
pavement was of transparent glass, under which 
were clear running waters wherein swam red and 
yellow fish. 

"It appears that you are a formidable person, 
Ahasuerus. My wife here fears you." 

"Splendour of the Age," returned the other, 
quietly, "it is notorious that women have long hair 
and short wits. There is no need to fear a Jew. 
The Jew, I take it, was created in order that chil- 
dren might evince their playfulness by stoning 
him, the honest show their common sense by rob- 
bing him, and the religious display their piety by 
burning him. Who forbids it?" 

"Ey, but my wife is a Christian and in conse- 
quence worships a Jew." Demetrios reflected. 
His dark eyes twinkled. "What is your opinion 
concerning this other Jew, Ahasuerus ?" 
"I know that he was the Messiah, Lord." 
"And yet you do not worship him." 
The Jew said: "It was not altogether wor- 
ship he desired. He asked that men should love 
him. He does not ask that of me." 

[68] 



AHASUERUS IS PATIENT 

"I find that an obscure saying," Demetrios 
considered. 

"It is a true saying, King of Kings. In time 
it will be made plain. That time is not yet come. 
I used to pray it would come soon. Now I do not 
pray any longer. I only wait." 

Demetrios tugged at his chin, his eyes nar- 
rowed, meditating. He laughed. 

"It is no affair of mine. What am I that I am 
called upon to have prejudices concerning the uni- 
verse ? It is highly probable that there are gods 
of some sort or another, but I do not so far flat- 
ter myself as to consider that any possible god 
would be at all interested in my opinion of him. 
In any event, I am Demetrios. Let the worst 
come, and in whatever baleful underworld I find 
myself imprisoned I shall maintain myself there 
in a manner not unworthy of Demetrios." The 
proconsul shrugged at this point. "I do not find 
you amusing, Ahasuerus. You may go." 

"I hear and I obey," the Jew replied. He 
went away patiently. 

[6 9 ] 



VIII 

HOW DEMETRIOS WOOED 

THEN Demetrios turned toward Melicent, 
rejoicing that his chattel had golden hair 
and was comely beyond comparison with 
all other women he had ever seen. 

Said Demetrios: "I love you, Melicent, and 
you do not love me. Do not be offended because 
my speech is harsh, for even though I know my 
candour is distasteful I must speak the truth. 
You have been obdurate too long, denying Kypris 
what is due to her. I think that your brain is 
giddy because of too much exulting in the mag- 
nificence of your body and in the number of men 
who have desired it to their own hurt. I concede 
your beauty, yet what will it matter a hundred 
years from now? 

"I admit that my refrain is old. But it will 
presently take on a more poignant meaning, be- 
cause a hundred years from now you — even you, 

[>o] 



NOW DEMETRIOS WOOES 

dear Melicent ! — and all the loveliness which now 
causes me to estimate life as a light matter in 
comparison with love, will be only a bone or two. 
Your lustrous eyes, which are now more beauti- 
ful than it is possible to express, will be un- 
savoury holes and a worm will crawl through 
them; and what will it matter a hundred years 
from now? 

"A hundred years from now should any one 
break open our gilded tomb, he will find Melicent 
to be no more admirable than Demetrios. One 
skull is like another, and is as lightly split with a 
mattock. Hail, rain and dew will drench us im- 
partially when I lie at your side, as I intend to do, 
for a hundred years and yet another hundred 
years. You need not frown, for what will it 
matter a hundred years from now ? 

"Melicent, I offer love and a life that derides 
the folly of all other manners of living ; and even 
if you deny me, what will it matter a hundred 
years from now?" 

His face was violently contorted, his speech 
had fervent bitterness, for even while he wooed 

[71] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

the girl the man internally was raging over his 
own infatuation. 

And Melicent answered: "There can be no 
question of love between us, seignior. You pur- 
chased my body. My body is at your disposal un- 
der God's will." 

Demetrios sneered, his ardours cooled. 

"I have already told you, my girl, I do not care 
for that which can be purchased." 

In such fashion Melicent abode among these 
odious persons as a lily which is rooted in mire. 
She was a prisoner always, and when Demetrios 
came to Nacumera — which fell about irregularly, 
for now arose much fighting between the Chris- 
tians and the pagans — a gem which he uncased, 
admired, curtly exulted in, and then, jeering at 
those hot wishes in his heart, locked up untouched 
when he went back to warfare. 

To her the man was uniformly kind, if with a 
sort of sneer she could not understand; and he 
pillaged an infinity of Genoese and Venetian ships 
— which were notoriously the richliest laden — of 

[72] 



NOW DEMETRIOS WOOES 

jewels, veils, silks, furs, embroideries and figured 
stuffs, wherewith to enhance the comeliness of 
Melicent. It seemed an all-engulfing madness 
with this despot daily to aggravate his fierce de- 
sire of her, to nurture his obsession, so that he 
might glory in the consciousness of treading 
down no puny adversary. 

Pride spurred him on as witches ride their 
dupes to a foreknown destruction. "Let us have 
patience," he would say. 

Meanwhile his other wives peered from 
screened alcoves at these two and duly hated Mel- 
icent. "Let us have patience," they said also, but 
with a meaning even more sinister. 



[73] 



PART THREE 

DEMETRIOS 

Of how Dame Melicenfs fond lovers go 
As comrades, working each his fellow's woe: 
Each hath unhorsed the other of the twain, 
And knoweth that nowhither 'twixt Ukraine 
And Ormus roameth any lion's son 
More eager in the hunt than Per ion, 
Nor any viper's sire more venomous 
Through jealous hurt than is Demetrios. 



HOW DEMETRIOS WAS TAKEN 

IT is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, 
telling how war awoke and raged about the 
province of Demetrios as tirelessly as waves 
lapped at its shore. They tell also how the Comte 
de la Foret (for the King of Cyprus ennobled 
Perion after the latter's famous relief of the gar- 
rison at Japhe) proved in these wars that Perion 
had not his twin in Christendom. 1 

And the tale tells how Perion's skill in warfare 
was leased to whatsoever lord would dare con- 
tend against Demetrios and the proconsul's magic 
sword Flamberge ; and how Perion of the Forest 
did not inordinately concern himself as to the mer- 
its of any quarrel, because of which battalions 
died, so long as he fought toward Melicent. 
Demetrios was thrilled with the heroic joy of an 

1 Nicolas de Caen has here a minute account of four campaigns, 
detailing all military and naval evolutions with a fullness which 
verges upon prolixity. It appears expedient to omit this. 

[771 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

athlete who finds that he unwittingly has grappled 
with his equal. 

Then, after many ups and downs of carnage, 
Perion surprised the galley of Demetrios while 
the proconsul slept at anchor in his own harbour 
of Quesiton. Demetrios fought nakedly against 
accoutred soldiers and had killed two of them 
with his hands before he could be quieted by an 
admiring Perion. 

Demetrios by Perion's order was furnished 
with a sword of ordinary attributes, and Perion 
ridded himself of all defensive armour. The two 
met like an encounter of tempests, and in the out- 
come Demetrios was wounded so that he lay in- 
sensible. Demetrios was taken as a prisoner 
toward the domains of King Theodoret, third of 
that name to rule, and once (as you have heard) 
a wooer of Dame Melicent. Perion then served 
this prince, who did not love him but found him 
useful. 

"Only you are my private capture," said Pe- 
rion ; "conquered by my own hand and in fair fight. 
Now I am unwilling to insult the most valiant 

[78] 



DEMETRIOS IS TAKEN 

warrior whom I have known by valuing him too 
cheaply, and I accordingly fix your ransom as the 
person of Dame Melicent. ,, 

Demetrios bit his nails. 

"Needs must," he said at last. "It is unneces- 
sary to inform you that when my property is taken 
from me I shall endeavour to regain it. I shall, 
before the year is out, lay waste whatever prov- 
ince harbours you. Meanwhile I warn you that 
it is necessary to be speedy in this ransoming. 
My other wives abhor the Frankish woman who 
has supplanted them in my esteem. My son 
Orestes, who succeeds me, will be guided by his 
mother. Callistion has thrice endeavoured to kill 
Melicent. If any harm befalls me, Callistion to 
all intent will reign in Nacumera, and she will 
not be satisfied with mere assassination. I can- 
not guess what torment Callistion will devise, but 
it will be no child's play — " 

"Oh, infamy!" cried Perion. He had learned! 
long ago how cunning the heathen were in such 
cruelties, and so he shuddered. 

Demetrios was silent. He, too, was fright- 

[79] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

ened, because this despot knew — and none knew 
better — that in his lordly house far oversea Callis- 
tion would find equipment for a hundred curious 
tortures. 

"It has been difficult for me to tell you this," 
Demetrios then said, "because it savours of an 
appeal to spare me. I think you will have gleaned 
however, from our former encounters that I am 
not unreasonably afraid of death. Also I think 
that you love Melicent. For the rest, there is 
no person in Nacumera so untutored as to cross 
my least desire until my death is triply proven. 
Accordingly, I that am Demetrios am willing to 
entreat an oath that you will not permit Theo- 
doret to kill me." 

"I swear by God and all the laws of Rome — " 
cried Perion. 

"Ey, but I am not very popular in Rome," 
Demetrios interrupted. "I would prefer that you 
swore by your love for Melicent. I would pre- 
fer an oath which both of us may understand, 
and I know of none other/' 

[80] 



DEMETRIOS IS TAKEN 

So Perion swore as Demetrios requested, and 
set about the conveyance of Demetrios into King 
Theodoret's realm. 



[81] 



II 

HOW THEY PRAISED MELICENT 

THE conqueror and the conquered sat to- 
gether upon the prow of Perion' s ship. 
It was a warm, clear night, so brilliant 
that the stars were invisible. Perion sighed. 
Demetrios inquired the reason. 

"It is the memory of a fair and noble lady," 
Perion answered, "that causes me to heave a sigh 
from my inmost heart, Messire Demetrios. I 
cannot forget that loveliness which had no par- 
allel. Pardieu, her eyes were amethysts, her lips 
were red as the berries of a holly-tree. Her hair 
blazed in the light, bright as the sunflower glows ; 
her skin was whiter than milk; the down of a 
fledgling bird was not more grateful to the touch 
than were her hands. Whoso beheld her was 
fulfilled with love of Melicent. ,, 

Demetrios conceded, with his customary lazy 
shrug: "She is still a brightly-coloured crea- 

[82] 



THEY £ RAISE MELICENT 

ture, moves gracefully, has a sweet, drowsy voice, 
and is as soft to the touch as rabbit's fur. There- 
fore, it is imperative that one of us must cut the 
other's throat. The deduction is perfectly logi- 
cal." He yawned and added: "Yet I do not 
know that my love for her is any greater than 
my hatred. I rage against her patient tolerance 
of me, and I am often tempted to disfigure, muti- 
late, even to destroy this colourful, stupid woman, 
who makes me wof ully ridiculous in my own eyes. 
If Melicent were dead, it would be the happier for 
Demetrios." 

"When I first saw Dame Melicent," said Perion, 
"the sea was languid, as if outworn by vain en- 
deavours to rival the purple of her eyes. Sea- 
birds were adrift in the air, very close to her, 
and their movements were less graceful than hers. 
She was attired in a robe of white silk, and about 
her wrists were heavy bands of silver. A tiny wind 
played truant in order to caress her unplaited 
hair, because the wind was more hardy than I and 
dared to love her. I did not think of love, I 
thought only of the brave deeds I might have done 

[83] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

and had not done. I thought of my unworthi- 
ness, and it seemed to me that my soul writhed 
like an eel in sunlight, a naked, despicable thing, 
before the feet of Melicent." 

Demetrios said: "When I first saw the girl 
she knew herself entrapped, her body mine, her 
life dependent on my whim. She waved aside 
such petty inconveniences, bade them await an 
hour when she had leisure to consider them, be- 
cause nothing else was of any importance so long 
as my porter went in chains. I was an obstacle 
to her plans and nothing more; a pebble in her 
shoe would have perturbed her about as much as 
I did. Here at last, I thought, is genuine com- 
mon sense — a clear-headed decision as to your 
actual desire, apart from man-taught ethics, and 
fearless purchase of it at any cost. Therein I 
recognise something not unakin to Demetrios." 

Said Perion: "Since she permits me to serve 
her, I may not serve unworthily. To-morrow 
I shall set new armies afield. To-morrow it will 
delight me to see their tents rise in your mead- 
ows, Messire Demetrios, and to see our followers 

[8 4 ] 



THEY E RAISE MELICENT 

meet in clashing combat, by hundreds and thou- 
sands, so mightily that men will sing of it when 
we are gone. To-morrow one of us must kill the 
other. To-night we drink our wine in amity. I 
have not time to hate you, I have not time to like or 
dislike any living person, I must devote all facul- 
ties that heaven gave me to the love and service 
of Melicent." 

"To-night we babble to the stars and dream 
vain dreams as other fools have done before us," 
Demetrios considered. "To-morrow rests with 
heaven ; but, depend upon it, Messire de la Foret, 
whatever we may do will be foolishly performed, 
because we are both besotted by bright eyes and 
lips and hair. I trust to find our antics laugha- 
ble. Yet there is that in me which is murderous," 
Demetrios observed, "when I reflect that you and 
she do not dislike me. It is the actual truth that 
neither of you considers me to be worth the 
trouble. I find such conduct irritating, because 
no other persons have ever dared to deal in this 
fashion with Demetrios." 

[85] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Thus they would sit together nightly upon the 
prow of Perion's ship and rhapsodise of Melicent 
until the stars grew lustreless before the sun. 



[86] 



Ill 

HOW PERION BRAVED THEODORET 

THE city of Megaris (then Theodoret's 
capital) was ablaze with bonfires on the 
night that the Comte de la Foret entered 
it at the head of his forces. Demetrios, 
meanly clothed, his hands tied behind him, 
trudged sullenly beside his conqueror's horse. 
Yet of the two the gloomier face showed below the 
count's coronet, for Perion did not relish the im- 
pendent interview with King Theodoret. They 
came thus amid much shouting to the Hotel 
d'Ebelin, their assigned quarters, and slept there. 
Next morning, about the hour of prime, two 
men-at-arms accompanied a fettered Demetrios 
into the presence of King Theodoret. Perion of 
the Forest preceded them. He pardonably 
swaggered, in spite of his underlying uneasiness, 
for this last feat, as he could not ignore, was a 
performance which Christendom united to ap- 
plaud. 

[87] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

They came thus into a spacious chamber, very 
inadequately lighted. The walls were unhewn 
stone. There was but one window, of uncoloured 
glass; and it was guarded by iron bars. The 
floor was bare of rushes. On one side was a bed 
with tattered hangings of green, which were 
adorned with rampant lions worked in silver 
thread much tarnished; to the right hand stood 
a prie-dieu. Between these isolated articles of 
furniture and behind an unpainted table sat, in 
a high-backed chair, a wizen and shabbily-clad 
old man. This was Theodoret, most pious and 
penurious of monarchs. In attendance upon him 
were Fra Battista, prior of the Grey Monks, and 
Melicent's near kinsman, once the Bishop, now 
the Cardinal, de Montors, who, as was widely 
known, was the actual monarch of this realm. 
The latter was smartly habited as a cavalier and 
showed in nothing like a churchman. 

The infirm King arose and came to meet the 
champion who had performed what many gener- 
als of Christendom had vainly striven to achieve. 

[88] 



THEODORET IS BRAVED 

He embraced the conqueror of Demetrios as one 
does an equal. 

Said Theodoret: "Hail, my fair friend! you 
who have lopped the right arm of heathenry! 
To-day, I know, the saints hold festival in heaven. 
I cannot recompense you, since God alone is om- 
nipotent. Yet ask now what you will, short of 
my crown, and it is yours." The old man kissed 
the chief of all his treasures, a bit of the True 
Cross, which hung upon his breast supported by a 
chain of gold. 

"The King has spoken," Perion returned. "I 
ask the life of Demetrios." 

Theodoret recoiled, like a small flame which is 
fluttered by its kindler's breath. He cackled 
thinly. 

"A jest or so is privileged in this high hour. 
Yet we ought not to make a jest of matters which 
concern the Church. Am I not right, Ayrart? 
Oh, no, this merciless Demetrios is assuredly that 
very Antichrist whose coming was foretold. I 
must relinquish him to Mother Church, in order 

[89] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

that he may be equitably tried, and be baptised — 
since even he may have a soul — and afterward be 
burned in the market-place." 

"The King has spoken/' Perion replied. "I 
too have spoken/' 

There was a pause of horror upon the part of 
King Theodoret. He was at first in a mere 
whirl. 

"You ask, in earnest, for the life of this Deme- 
trios, this arch-foe of our Redeemer, this spawn 
of Satan, who has sacked more of my towns than 
I have fingers on this wasted hand! Now, now 
that God has singularly favoured me — !" He 
snarled and gibbered like a frenzied ape, and had 
no longer the ability to articulate. 

"Beau sire, I fought the man because he in- 
famously held Dame Melicent, whom I serve in 
this world without any reservation and trust to 
serve in Paradise. His person, and this alone, 
will ransom Melicent." 

"You plan to loose this fiend!" the old king 
cried. "To stir up all this butchery again !" 

"Sire, pray recall how long I have loved Meli- 

[90] 



THEODORET IS BRAVED 

cent. Reflect that if you slay Demetrios, Dame 
Melicent will be left destitute in heathenry. Re- 
member that she will be murdered through the 
hatred of this man's other wives whom her in- 
estimable beauty has supplanted." Thus Perion 
entreated. 

It was curious to note how, all this while, the 
cardinal and the proconsul had appraised each 
other. It was as though they two had been the 
only persons in the dimly-lit apartment. They 
had not met before. "Here is my match," 
thought each of these two ; "here if the world af- 
fords it is my peer in cunning and bravery." And 
each lusted for a contest, and with something of 
mutual comprehension. 

In consequence they stinted pity for Theodoret, 
who unfeignedly believed that whether he kept 
or broke his recent oath damnation was inevita- 
ble. "You have been ill-advised — " he stam- 
mered. "I do not dare release Demetrios — 
My soul would answer that enormity — But it 
was sworn upon the Cross — Oh, ruin either 
way ! Come now, my gallant captain," the King 

.[91] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

barked. "I have gold, lands, and jewels — " 

"Beau sire, I have loved this my dearest lady 
since the time when both of us were little more 
than children, and each day of the year my love 
for her has been doubled. What would it avail 
me to live in however lofty estate when I cannot 
daily see the treasure of my life ?" 

And now the Cardinal de Montors interrupted, 
and his voice was to the ear as silk is to the fin- 
gers. 

"Beau sire/' said Ayrart de Montors, "I speak 
in all appropriate respect. But you have sworn 
an oath which no man living may presume to vio- 
late." 

"Oh, true, Ayrart!" the fluttered King as- 
sented. "This blusterer holds me as in a vise." 
He turned to Perion, fierce, tense and fragile, 
like an angered cat. "Choose now ! I will make 
you the wealthiest person in my realm — My 
son, I warn you that since Adam's time women 
have been the devil's peculiar bait. See now, I 
am not angry. Heh, I remember, too, how beau- 
tiful she was. I was once tempted much as you 

[92] 



THEODORET IS BRAVED 

are tempted. So I pardon you. I will give you 
my daughter Ermengarde in marriage, I will 
make you my heir, I will give you half my king- 
dom — " His voice rose, quavering; and it died 
now, for he foreread the damnation of Theo- 
doret's soul even while he fawned before an im- 
passive Perion. 

"Since Love has taken up his abode within my 
heart," said Perion, "there has not ever been a 
vacancy therein for any other thought. How 
may I help it if Love recompenses my hospitality 
by afflicting me with a desire which can neither 
subdue the world nor be subdued by it?" 

Theodoret's reply was like the rustle of dead 
leaves. 

"Else I must keep my oath. In that event you 
may depart with this unbeliever. I will accord 
you twenty-four hours wherein to accomplish this. 
But, oh, if I lay hands upon either of you within 
the twenty-fifth hour I will not kill my prisoner 
at once. For first I must devise unheard-of tor* 
ments — " The King's face was not agreeable to 
look upon. 

[93] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Yet Perion encountered it with an untroubled 
gaze until Battista spoke. 

"I promise worse. The Book will be cast down, 
the bells be tolled, and all the candles snuffed — 
ah, very soon !" He licked his lips, gingerly, just 
as a cat does. 

Then Perion was moved, since excommunica- 
tion is more terrible than death to any of the 
Church's loyal children, and he was now more 
frightened than the King. And so Perion 
thought of Melicent a while before he spoke. 

Said Perion: "I choose. I choose Deme- 
trios." 

"Go !" the King said. "Go hence, blasphemer. 
Hah, you will weep because of this in hell. I 
pray that I may hear you then, and laugh as I 
do now — " 

He went away, and was followed by Battista, 
who whispered of a makeshift. The cardinal re- 
mained and saw to it that the chains were taken 
from Demetrios. 

"In consequence of Messire de la Foret's — as 
I must term it — most unchristian decision," said 

[94] 



THEODORET IS BRAVED 

the cardinal, "it is not impossible, Messire the 
Proconsul, that I may head the next assault upon 
your territory — " 

Demetrios laughed. 

"I dare to promise your Eminence that recep- 
tion you would most enjoy." 

"I had hoped for as much," the cardinal re- 
turned; and he too laughed. To do him justice, 
he did not know of Battista's makeshift. 

The cardinal remained when they had gone. 
Seated in a king's chair, Ayrart de Montors med- 
itated rather wistfully upon that old time when 
he, also, had loved Melicent whole-heartedly. It 
seemed a great while ago, made him aware of his 
maturity. 

He had put love out of his life in common with 
all other weaknesses which might conceivably 
hinder the advancement of Ayrart de Montors. 
In consequence, he had climbed far. He was not 
dissatisfied. It was a man's business to make his 
way in the world, and he had done so. 

"My cousin is a brave girl, though," he said 

[95] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

aloud, "I must certainly do what I can to effect 
her rescue as soon as it is convenient to send an- 
other expedition against Demetrios. ,, 

Then the cardinal set about concoction of a 
moving sonnet in praise of Monna Vittoria de' 
Pazzi. Desperation loaned him extraordinary 
eloquence (as he complacently reflected) in ad- 
dressing this obdurate woman, who had held out 
against his love-making for six weeks now. 



[96] 



IV 

HOW PERION FOUGHT IN SANNAZARO 

DEMETRIOS and Perion, by the quick 
turn of fortune previously recorded, 
were allied against all Christendom. 
They got arms at the Hotel d'Ebelin and rode out 
of the city of Megaris, where the bonfires lighted 
over-night in Perion's honour were still smoulder- 
ing, amid loud execrations. Fra Battista had not 
delayed to spread the news of King Theodoret's 
dilemma. The burghers yelled menaces; but, 
knowing that an endeavour to constrain the pas- 
sage of these champions would prove unwhole- 
some for at least a dozen of the arrestors, they 
cannily confined their malice to a vocal demonstra- 
tion. 

Demetrios rode unhelmeted, intending that 
these snarling little people of Megaris should 
plainly see the man whom they most feared and 
hated. 

[97] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

It was Perion who spoke first. They had 
passed the city walls, and had mounted the hill 
which leads toward the Forest of Sannazaro. 
Their road lay through a rocky pass above which 
the leaves of spring were like sparse traceries on a 
blue cupola, for April had not come as yet. 

"I meant," said Perion, "to hold you as the ran- 
som of Dame Melicent. I fear that is impossible. 
I, who am a landless man, have neither servitors 
nor any castle wherein to retain you as a prisoner. 
I earnestly desire to kill you, and forthwith, in 
single combat; but when your son Orestes 
knows that you are dead he will, as you report, 
kill Melicent. And yet it may be you are 
lying." 

Perion was of a tall imperious person, and long 
accustomed to command. He had black hair, 
grey eyes which challenged you, and a thin pleas- 
ant face which was not pleasant now. 

"You know that I am not a coward — " Deme- 
trios began. 

"Indeed," said Perion, "I believe you to be the 
hardiest warrior in the world." 

[98] 



NOW PERION FIGHTS 

"Therefore I may without dishonour repeat to 
you that my death involves the death of Melicent. 
Orestes hates her for his mother's sake. I think 
that each of us knows I do not fear death, since 
we have fought so often. I grant I had Flam- 
berge to wield, a magic weapon — " Demetrios 
shook himself, like a dog coming from the water, 
for to consider an extraneous invincibility was 
nauseous. "However ! I that am Demetrios pro- 
test I will not fight with you, that I will accept 
any insult rather than risk my life in any quarrel 
extant, since when Orestes knows I am no longer 
to be feared he will take vengeance on Dame Meli- 
cent." 

"Prove this!" said Perion, and with delibera- 
tion he struck Demetrios. Full in the face he 
struck the swart proconsul, and in the ensuing 
silence you could hear a feeble breeze that strayed 
about the tree-tops, but nothing else. And 
Perion, strong man, the willing scourge of heath- 
endom, had half a mind to weep. 

Demetrios had not moved a finger. It was ap- 
palling. The proconsul's countenance had 

[99] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

throughout the hue of wood-ashes, but his fixed 
eyes were like blown embers. 

"I believe that it is proved," said Demetrios, 
"since both of us are still alive." He whispered 
this. 

"In fact the thing is settled," Perion agreed. 
"I know that nothing save your love for Melicent 
could possibly induce you to decline a proffered 
battle. When Demetrios enacts the poltroon I 
am the most hasty of all men living to assert that 
the excellency of his reason is indisputable. Let 
us get on ! I have only five hundred sequins, but 
this will be enough to buy your passage back to 
Quesiton. And inasmuch as we are near the 
coast — " 

"I think some others mean to have a spoon in 
that broth," Demetrios returned. " For look, 
messire!" 

Perion saw that far beneath them a company 
of retainers in white and purple were spurring 
up the hill. "It is Duke Raimond's livery," said 
Perion. 

Demetrios gloried in his ruin. 
[100] 



NOW PERION FIGHTS 

"Pious Theodoret has sworn a truce of twenty- 
four hours, and in consequence might not send 
any of his own lackeys after us. But there was 
nothing to prevent the dropping of a hint into 
the ear of his brother-in-law, because you ser- 
vitors of Christ excel in these distinctions." 

"This is hardly an opportunity for theological 
debate," Perion considered. "And for the rest, 
time presses. It is your instant business to es- 
cape." He gave his tiny bag of gold to his chief 
enemy. "Make for Narenta. It is a free city 
and unfriendly to Theodoret. If I survive I will 
come presently and fight with you for Melicent." 

"I shall do nothing of the sort," Demetrios 
equably returned. "Am I the person to permit 
the man whom I most hate — you who have struck 
me and yet live! — to fight alone against some 
twenty adversaries ! Oh, no, I shall remain, since 
after all, there are only twenty." 

"I was mistaken in you," Perion replied, "for 
I had thought you loved Dame Melicent as I do. 
I find too late that you would estimate your pri- 
vate honour as set against her welfare." 

[IOI] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

The two men looked upon each other. Long 
and long they looked, and each was elated. "I 
comprehend/' Demetrios said. He clapped spurs 
to his horse and fled as a coward would have done. 
This was one occasion in his life when he over- 
came his pride, and should in consequence be 
noted. 

The heart of Perion was glad. 

"Oh, but at times/' said Perion, "I wish that 
I might honourably love this infamous proconsul." 

Afterward he wheeled and met Duke Raimond's 
men. Then like a reaper cutting a field of wheat 
Sire Perion showed the sun his sword and went 
about his work, and not without harvesting. 

In that narrow way nothing could be heard but 
the striking of blows on armour and the clash of 
swords which bit at one another. The Comte de 
la Foret, for once, allowed himself the privilege 
of fighting in anger. He went without a word 
toward this hopeless encounter, as a drunkard to 
his bottle. First Perion killed Ruggiero of the 
Lamberti and after that Perion raged as a wolf 

[102] 



NOW PERION FIGHTS 

harrying sheep. Six other stalwart men he cut 
down like a dumb maniac among tapestries. His 
horse was slain and lay blocking the road, making 
a barrier behind which Perion fought. Then Pe- 
rion encountered Giacomo di Forio, and while the 
two contended Gulio the Red very warily cast his 
sword like a spear so that it penetrated Perion's 
left shoulder and drew much blood. This ham- 
pered the lone champion. Then Marzio threw a 
stone which struck on Perion's crest and broke 
the fastenings of Perion's helmet. Instantly Gia- 
como gave him three wounds, and Perion stum- 
bled, the sunlight glossing his hair. He fell and 
they took him. They robbed the corpses of their 
surcoats, which they tore in strips. They made 
ropes of this bloodied finery, and with these ropes 
they bound Perion of the Forest, whom twenty 
men had conquered finally. 

He laughed like a person bedrugged ; but in the 
midst of this superfluous defiance Perion swooned 
because of many injuries. He knew that with 
fair luck Demetrios had a sufficient start. His 

[103] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

heart exulted, thinking that Melicent was saved. 
It was the happier for him he was not ever des- 
tined to comprehend the standards of Demetrios. 



[104] 



HOW DEMETRIOS MEDITATED 

DEMETRIOS came without any hin- 
drance into Narenta, a free city. He 
believed his Emperor must have sent 
galleys toward Christendom to get tidings of his 
generalissimo, but in this city of merchants De- 
metrios heard no report of them. Yet in the har- 
bour he found a trading-ship prepared for traffic 
in the country of the pagans ; the sail was naked 
to the wind, and the anchor-chain was already 
shortened at the bow. Demetrios bargained with 
the captain of this vessel, and in the outcome paid 
him four hundred sequins. In exchange the man 
agreed to touch at the Needle of Ansignano that 
afternoon and take Demetrios aboard. Since the 
proconsul had no passport, he could not with 
safety endeavour to elude those officers of the 
Tribunal who must endorse their passage at 
Piaja. 

[105] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Thus about sunset Demetrios waited the ship's 
coming, alone upon the Needle. This promontory 
is like a Titan's finger of black rock thrust out 
into the water. The day was perishing, and the 
querulous sea before Demetrios was an unresting 
welter of gold and blood. 

He thought of how he had won safely through 
a horde of dangers, and the gross man chuckled. 
He considered the unquestioned rulership of ev- 
ery person near Demetrios which awaited him 
oversea, and chiefly he thought of Melicent whom 
he loved even better than he did the power to 
sneer at everything the world contained. And 
the proconsul chuckled. 

"For I owe very much to Messire de la Foret," 
he said aloud. "I owe far more than I can esti- 
mate. For by this those lackeys will have slain 
Messire de la Foret or else they will have taken 
Messire de la Foret to King Theodoret, who will 
piously make an end of him. And either way, I 
shall enjoy tranquillity and shall possess my Meli- 
cent until I die. Decidedly, I owe a deal to this 
self-satisfied tall fool." 

[106] 



DEMETRIOS MEDITATES 

Thus he contended with his irritation. It may- 
be that the man was never sane ; it is certain that 
the mainspring of his least action was an inor- 
dinate pride. Now hatred quickened, spreading 
from a flicker of distaste; and his faculties were 
stupefied, as though he faced a girdling conflagra- 
tion. It was not possible to hate adequately this 
Perion who had struck Demetrios of Anatolia 
and perhaps was not yet dead; nor could Deme- 
trios think of any sufficing requital for this Perion 
who dared to be so young and handsome when 
many other people were neither, this Perion 
whom Melicent had loved and loved to-day. And 
Demetrios of Anatolia had fought with a charmed 
sword against a person such as this, safe as an 
angler matched against a minnow; and Deme- 
trios of Anatolia, now at the last, accepted alms 
from what had been until to-day a pertinacious 
gnat. Demetrios was physically shaken by dis- 
gust at the situation, and in the sunset's glare his 
swarthy countenance showed like that of Belial 
among the damned. 

"The life of Melicent hangs on my safe return 
[107] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

to Nacumera. . . . Ey, what is that to me!" the 
proconsul cried aloud. "The thought of Melicent 
is sweeter than the thought of any god. It is not 
sweet enough to bribe me into living as this Pe- 
rion's debtor." 

So when the ship touched at the Needle, a half- 
hour later, that spur of rock was vacant. Deme- 
trios had untethered his horse, had thrown away 
his sword and other armour, and had torn his 
garments ; afterward he rolled in the first puddle 
he discovered. Thus he set out afoot, in grimy 
rags — for no one marks a beggar upon the high- 
way — and thus he came again into the realm of 
King Theodoret, where certainly it did not occur 
to anybody to look for him. 

With the advantage of a quiet advent, as was 
quickly proven, he found no check for a notorious 
leave-taking. 



[108] 



VI 



HOW A MINSTREL CAME TO SAN ALESSANDRO 

DEMETRIOS came to Megaris where 
Perion lay fettered in the Castle of San' 
Alessandro, then a new building. Pe- 
rion's trial, condemnation, and so on, had con- 
sumed the better part of an hour, on account of 
the drunkenness of one of the Inquisitors, who 
had vexatiously impeded these formalities by 
singing love-songs; but in the end it had been 
salutarily arranged that the Comte de la Foret be 
torn apart by four horses upon the St. Richard's 
day ensuing. 

Demetrios, having gleaned this knowledge in a 
pothouse, purchased a stout file, a scarlet cap and 
a lute. Ambrogio Bracciolini, head-gaoler at the 
fortress — so the gossips told Demetrios — had 
been a jongleur in youth, and minstrels were al- 
ways welcome guests at San' Alessandro. 

The gaoler was a very fat man with icy little 
[109] 



THE SOUL OF M E L I C E N T 

eyes. Demetrios took his measure to a hair's 
breadth as this Bracciolini straddled in the door- 
way. 

Demetrios had assumed an admirable air of 
simplicity. 

"God give you joy, messire," he said, with a 
simper ; "I come bringing a precious balsam which 
cures all sorts of ills, and heals the troubles both 
of body and mind. For what is better than to 
have a pleasant companion to sing and tell merry 
tales, songs and facetious histories ?" 

"You appear to be something of a fool/' Brac- 
ciolini considered, "but all do not sleep who snore. 
Come, tell me what are your accomplishments." 

"I can play the lute, the violin, the flageolet, 
the harp, the syrinx and the regals," the other 
replied; "also the Spanish penola that is struck 
with a quill, the organistrum that a wheel turns 
round, the wait so delightful, the rebeck so en- 
chanting, the little gigue that chirps up on high, 
and the great horn that booms like thunder." 

Bracciolini said: "That is something. But 
can you throw knives into the air and catch them 

[no] 



A MINSTREL COMES 

without cutting your fingers? Can you balance 
chairs and do tricks with string? or imitate the 
cries of birds? or throw a somersault and walk 
on your head? Ha, I thought not. The Gay 
Science is dying out, and young practitioners neg- 
lect these subtile points. It was not so in my 
day. However, you may come in." 

So when night fell Demetrios and Bracciolini 
sat snug and sang of love, of joy, and arms. The 
fire burned bright and the floor was well covered 
with gaily tinted mats. White wines and red 
were on the table. 

Presently they turned to canzons of a more in- 
decorous nature. Demetrios sang the loves of 
Douzi and Ishtar, which the gaoler found re- 
markable. He said so and crossed himself. 
"Man, man, you must have been afishing in the 
mid-pit of hell to net such filth." 

"I learned it in Nacumera," said Demetrios, 
"when I was a prisoner there with Messire de 
la Foret. It was a favourite song of his." 

"Ay?" said Bracciolini. He looked at Deme- 
trios very hard and pursed his lips as if to whistle. 

[in] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

The gaoler scented a bribe from afar, but the face 
of Demetrios was all vacant cheerfulness. 

Bracciolini said, idly: "So you served under 
him? I remember that he was taken by the 
heathen. A woman ransomed him, they say." 

Demetrios, able to tell a tale against any man, 
told now the tale of Melicent's immolation, speak- 
ing with vivacity and truthfulness in all points 
save that he represented himself to have been one 
of the ransomed Free Companions. 

Bracciolini's careful epilogue was that the pro- 
consul had acted foolishly in not keeping the em- 
eralds. 

"He gave his enemy a weapon against him," 
Bracciolini said, and waited. 

"Oh, but that weapon was never used. Sire 
Perion found service at once under King Theo- 
doret, you will remember. Therefore Sire Pe- 
rion hid away these emeralds against future need 
— under an oak in Sannazaro, he told me. I sup- 
pose they lie there yet." 

"Humph !" said Bracciolini. He was silent for 
a while. Demetrios was adjusting the strings 

[112] 



A MINSTREL COMES 

of the lute, not looking at him. "There were 
eighteen of them, you tell me? and all fine 
stones ?" 

"Ey? — oh, the emeralds? Yes, they were 
flawless, messire. The smallest was larger than 
a robin's egg. But I recall another song we 
learned at Nacumera — " 

Demetrios sang the loves of Lucius and Fotis. 
Bracciolini grunted, "Admirable" in an ab- 
stracted fashion, muttered something about the 
duties of his office, and left the room. Demetrios 
heard him lock the door outside and waited stol- 
idly. 

Presently Bracciolini returned in full armour, 
a naked sword in his hand. 

"My man," — and his voice rasped — "I believe 
you to be a rogue. I believe that you are con- 
triving the escape of this infamous Comte de la 
Foret. I believe you are attempting to bribe me 
into conniving at his escape. I shall do nothing 
of the sort, because in the first place, it would be 
an abominable violation of my oath of office, and 
in the second, it would result in my being hanged." 

["3] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

"Messire, I swear to you — !" Demetrios cried, 
in excellently feigned perturbation. 

"And in addition, I believe you have lied to 
me throughout. I do not believe you ever saw 
this Comte de la Foret. I very certainly do not 
believe you are a friend of this Comte de la 
Foret's, because in that event you would never 
have been mad enough to admit it. The state- 
ment is enough to hang you twice over. In short, 
the only thing I can be certain of is that you are 
out of your wits." 

"They say that I am moonstruck," Demetrios 
answered ; "but I will tell you a secret. There is 
a wisdom lies beyond the moon, and it is because 
of this that the stars are glad and admirable." 

"That appears to me to be nonsense," the gaoler 
commented ; and he went on : "Now I am going 
to confront you with Messire de la Foret. If 
your story prove to be false, it will be the worse 
for you." 

"It is a true tale. But sensible men close the 
door to him who always speaks the truth." 

"These reflections are not to the purpose," 
["4] 



A MINSTREL COMES 

Bracciolini submitted, and continued his argu- 
ment: "In that event Messire de la Foret will 
undoubtedly be moved by your fidelity in having 
sought him out whom all the rest of the world 
j|ias forsaken. You will remember that this same 
idelity has touched me to such an extent that I 
am granting you an interview with your former 
master. He will also reflect that a man once 
torn in four pieces has no particular use for em- 
eralds. He will, I repeat, be moved. In his emo- 
tion, in his gratitude, he will probably reveal to 
you the location of those eighteen stones, all flaw- 
less. If he should not evince a sufficiency of 
natural gratitude, I tell you candidly, it will be the 
worse for you. And now get on." 

He pointed the way and Demetrios cringed 
through the door. Bracciolini followed with 
drawn sword. The corridors were deserted. 
The head-gaoler had seen to that. 

His position was simple. Armed, he was cer- 
tainly not afraid of any combination between a 
weaponless man and a fettered one. If this 
jongleur had lied to him, Bracciolini meant to kill 

[ii5] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

him for his insolence. Bracciolini's own haphaz- 
ard youth had taught him that a jongleur had no 
civil rights, was a creature to be beaten, robbed, 
or stabbed with impunity. 

• Upon the other hand, if the man's tale were 
true, one of two things would happen. Either 
Perion would not be brought to tell where the 
emeralds were hidden, in which event Bracciolini 
would kill the jongleur for his bungling; or else 
the prisoner would tell everything necessary, in 
which event Bracciolini would kill the jongleur 
for knowing more than was convenient. This 
Bracciolini had an honest respect for gems and 
considered them to be equally misplaced when 
under an oak or in a vagabond's wallet. 

Consideration of such avarice may possibly 
have heartened Demetrios when the well-ar- 
moured gaoler knelt in order to unlock the door 
of Perion's cell. As an asp leaps, the big and 
supple hands of the proconsul gripped Braccio- 
lini's neck from behind and silenced speech. 

Demetrios, who was not tall, lifted the gaoler 
as high as possible, lest the beating of armoured 

[116] 



A MINSTREL COMES 

feet upon the slabs disturb any of the other keep- 
ers, and strangled his dupe painstakingly. The 
keys, as Demetrios reflected, were luckily at- 
tached to the belt of this writhing thing, and in 
consequence had not jangled on the floor. It was 
an inaudible affair and consumed in all some ten 
minutes. 



["7] 



VII 

HOW THEY CRIED QUITS 

DEMETRIOS went into Perion's cell and 
filed away the chains of Perion of the 
Forest. Demetrios thrust the gaoler's 
corpse under the bed and washed away all stains 
before the door of the cell, so that no awkward 
traces might remain. Demetrios locked the 
door of an unoccupied apartment and grinned as 
Old Legion must have done when Judas fell. 

More thanks to Bracciolini's precautions, these 
two got safely from the confines of San' Alessan- 
dro and afterward from the city of Megaris. 
They trudged on a familiar road. Perion would 
have spoken, but Demetrios growled, "Not now, 
messire." They came by night to that pass in 
Sannazaro which Perion had held against a score 
of men-at-arms. 

Demetrios turned. Moonlight illuminated 
their faces and showed the face of Demetrios as 

[118] 



NOW THEY CRY QUITS 

sly and leering. It was less the countenance of 
a proud lord than a carved head on some old 
water-spout. "Messire de la Foret," Demetrios 
said, "now we cry quits. Here our ways part till 
one of us has killed the other, as one of us must 
surely do." 

You saw that Perion was tremulous because of 
his fury. "You knave," he said, "out of your 
pride you have imperilled your accursed life — 
your life on which the life of Melicent depends! 
You must need delay and rescue me, while your 
spawn inflicted hideous infamies on Melicent! 
Oh, I had never hated you until to-night !" 

Demetrios was pleased. 

"Behold the increment," he said, "of the turned 
cheek. Be satisfied, O young and zealous ser- 
vitor of Love ! I am alone, unarmed and penni- 
less, among a people whom I have never been at 
pains even to despise. Presently I shall be taken 
by this vermin, and afterward I shall be burned 
alive. Theodoret is quite resolved to make of 
me a candle which will light his way to heaven." 

The two men talked together, leagued against 

[up] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

all Christendom. Demetrios had thirty sequins 
and Perion nothing at all. Then Perion showed 
the ring which Melicent had given him, as a love- 
token, long ago, when she was young and igno- 
rant of misery. He valued it as he did nothing 
else. 

"Oh, very dear to me is this dear ring which 
once touched a finger of that dear young Melicent 
whom you know nothing of ! Its gold is my lost 
youth, the gems of it are the tears she has shed 
because of me. Kiss it, Messire Demetrios, as I 
do now for the last time. It is a favour you have 
earned." 

Then these two went as mendicants — for no 
one marks a beggar upon the highway — into Na- 
renta, and sold this ring, in order that Demetrios 
might be conveyed oversea and that the life of 
Melicent might be preserved. They found an- 
other vessel which was about to venture into 
heathendom. Their gold was given to the cap- 
tain; and, in exchange, the bargain ran, his ship 
would touch at Assignano a little after the ensu- 
ing dawn and take Demetrios aboard. 

[120] 



NOW THEY CRY QUITS 

Thus the two lovers of Melicent foreplanned the 
future and did not admit into account vagarious 
Dame Chance. 



[121] 



/ 



VIII 

HOW FLAMBERGE WAS LOST 

THESE hunted men spent the following 
night upon the Needle, since there it was 
not possible for an adversary to surprise 
them. Perion's was the earlier watch, until mid- 
night, and during it Demetrios slept. Then the 
proconsul took his equitable turn. When Perion 
awakened the hour was after dawn. 

What Perion noted first, and within thirty feet 
of him, was a tall galley with blue and yellow 
sails. He perceived that the promontory was 
thronged with heathen sailors, who were unlad- 
ing the ship of various bales and chests. Deme- 
trios, now in the costume of his native country, 
stood among them giving orders. And it 
seemed, too, to Perion, in the moment of waking, 
that Dame Melusine, whom Perion had loved so 
long ago, stood among them; yet, now that he 
rose and faced Demetrios, she was not visible any- 
where, and Perion wondered dimly over his wild 

[122] 




'Demetrios stood among them giving orders" 



NOW FLAMBERGE IS LOST 

dream that she had been there at all. But more 
importunate matters were in hand. 

The proconsul grinned malevolently. 

"This is a ship that once was mine/' he said. 
"Do you not find it odd that Euthyclos here should 
have loved me sufficiently to hazard his life in 
order to come in search of me? Personally, I 
find it extremely droll. For the rest, you slept 
so soundly, Messire de la Foret, that I was un- 
willing to waken you. Then, too, such was the 
advice of a person who has some influence with 
the water-folk, people say, and who was perhaps 
the means of bringing this ship hither so oppor- 
tunely. I do not know. She is gone now, you 
see, intent as always on her own ends. Well, 
well! her ways are not our ways, and it is wiser 
not to meddle with them." 

But Perion, unarmed and thus surrounded, un- 
derstood only that he was lost. 

"Messire Demetrios," he said, "I never thought 
to ask a favour of you. I ask it now. For the 
ring's sake, give me at least a knife, Messire 
Demetrios. Let me die fighting.'' 

[123] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

"Why, but who spoke of fighting? For the 
ring's sake, I have caused the ship to be rifled 
of what valuables they had aboard. It is not 
much, but it is all I have. And you are to ac- 
cept my apologies for the miscellaneous nature 
of the cargo, Messire de la Foret — consisting, as 
it does, of armours and gems, camphor and am- 
bergris, carpets of raw silk, teakwood and pre- 
cious metals, rugs of Yemen leather, enamels, and 
I hardly know what else besides. For Euthyclos, 
as you will readily understand, was compelled to 
masquerade as a merchant-trader." 

Perion shook his head. 

"You offer enough to make me a wealthy man. 
But I would prefer a sword." 

At that Demetrios grimaced. 

"I had hoped to get off more cheaply." He un- 
buckled the cross-handled sword which he now 
wore and handed it to Perion. "This is Flam- 
berge," he said, "that magic blade which Galas 
made in our forefathers' heyday for Charle- 
maigne. It is as dear to me as your ring was 
to you. The man who wields it is reputed to be 

[124] 



NOW FLAMBERGE IS LOST 



unconquerable. I do not know about that, but 
in any event I yield Flamberge to you as a free 
gift. I might have known it was the only gift 
you would accept." His face lighted. "Come 
presently and fight with me for Melicent. Per- 
haps it will amuse me to ride out to battle and 
know I shall not live to see the sunset. Already 
it seems laughable that you will probably kill me 
with this very sword which I am touching 
now." 

The champions faced each other, Demetrios in 
a half-wistful mirth, and Perion in half-grudging 
pity. Long and long they looked. 

Demetrios shrugged. 

"For such as I am, to love is dangerous. For 
such as I am, nor fire nor meteor hurls a mightier 
bolt than Aphrodite's shaft, or marks its passage 
by more direful ruin. But you do not know Eu- 
ripides? — a fidgety-footed liar, Messire the 
Comte, who occasionally blunders into the clum- 
siest truths. Yes, he is perfectly right ; all things 
this goddess laughingly demolishes while she es- 
says haphazard flights about the world as a bee 

[125] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

does. And, like the bee, she wilfully dispenses 
honey, and at other times a wound/ ' 

Said Perion, who was no scholar: "I glory 
in our difference. For such as I am, love is suf- 
ficient proof that man was fashioned in God's im- 
age." 

"Ey, there is no accounting for a taste in apho- 
risms," Demetrios replied. He said, "Now I em- 
bark/' Yet he delayed, and spoke with unac- 
customed awkwardness. "Come, you who have 
been generous till this ! will you compel me to de- 
sert you here — quite penniless ?" 

Said Perion: "I may accept a sword from 
you. I do it gladly. But I may not accept any- 
thing else." 

"That would have been my answer. I am a 
lucky man," Demetrios said, "to have provoked 
an enemy so worthy of my opposition. We two 
have fought an honest and notable duel, wherein 
our weapons were not made of steel. I pray you 
harry me as quickly as you may; and then we 
will fight with swords till I am rid of you or you 
of me." 

[126] 



NOW FLAMBERGE IS LOST 

"Assuredly, I shall not fail you," answered Pe- 
rion. 

These two embraced and kissed each other. 
Afterward Demetrios went into his own country, 
and Perion remained, girt with the magic sword 
Flamberge. It was not all at once Perion recol- 
lected that the wearer of Flamberge is unconquer- 
able, if ancient histories are to be believed, for in 
deduction Perion was leisurely. 

Now on a sudden he perceived that Demetrios, 
out of his pride, had flung control of the future 
to Perion, as one gives money to a sot, entirely 
prescient of how it will be used. Perion had his 
moment of bleak rage. 

"I will not cog the dice to my advantage any 
more than you!" said Perion. He drew the 
sword of Charlemaigne and cast it from him as 
far as even he could cast, and the sea swallowed 
it. "Now God alone is arbiter !" cried Perion, 
"and I am not afraid." 

He stood a pauper and a friendless man. Be- 
side his thigh hung a sorcerer's scabbard of blue 
leather, curiously ornamented, but it was emptied. 

[127] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Perion laughed exultingly because he was elate 
with dreams of the future. And for the rest, he 
was aware it is less grateful to remember plaudits 
than to recall the exercise of that in us which is 
not merely human. 



[128] 



IX 

HOW PERION GOT UNEXPECTED AID 

THEN Perion turned from the Needle of 
Assignano, and went westward into the 
Forest of Columbiers. He had no plan. 
He wandered in the high woods that had never 
yet been felled or ordered, as a beast does in 
watchful care of hunters. 

He came presently to a glade which the sun- 
light flooded without obstruction. There was a 
fountain in this place, which oozed from under 
an iron-coloured boulder incrusted with grey 
lichens and green moss. Upon the rock a woman 
sat, her chin propped by one hand, and appeared 
to consider remote and pleasant happenings. 
She was clothed in white throughout, with metal 
bands about her neck and arms ; and her loosened 
hair, which was coloured like straw, and was as 
pale as the hair of children, glittered about her, 

[ 129 ] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

and shone frostily where it lay outspread upon the 
rock behind her. 

She turned to him without any haste or sur- 
prise, and Perion saw that this woman was Dame 
Melusine, whom he had loved to his own hurt 
(as you have heard) when Perion served King 
Helmas. She did not speak for a long while, 
but lazily considered Perion's honest face in a 
sort of whimsical regret for the adoration she no 
longer found there. 

"Then it was really you," he said, in wonder, 
"whom I saw talking with Demetrios when I 
awakened to-day." 

"You may be sure," she answered, "that talk 
was in no way injurious to you. Ah, no, had I 
been elsewhere, Perion, I think you would have 
been in Paradise by this." Then Melusine fell 
again into meditation. "And so you do not any 
longer either love or hate me, Perion?" Here 
was an odd echo of the complaint Demetrios had 
made. 

"That I once loved you is a truth which neither 
of us, I think, may ever quite forget," said Perion, 

[130] 



NOW PERION GETS AID 

very quiet. "I alone know how utterly I loved 
you — no, it was not I who loved you but a boy 
that is dead now. King's daughter, all of stone, 
O cruel woman and hateful, O sleek, smiling trait- 
ress! to-day no man remembers how utterly I 
loved you, for the years are as a mist between 
the heart of that dead boy and me, so that I may 
no longer see the boy's heart clearly. Yes, I have 
forgotten much. . . . Yet even to-day there is 
that in me which is faithful to you, and I cannot 
give you the hatred which your treachery has 
earned." 

Melusine spoke shrewdly. She had a sweet, 
shrill voice. 

"But I loved you, Perion — oh, yes, in part I 
loved you, just as one cannot help but love a large 
and faithful mastiff. But you were tedious, you 
annoyed me by your egotism. Yes, my friend, 
you think too much of what you owe to Perion's 
honour; you are perpetually squaring accounts 
with heaven, and you are too intent on keeping 
the balance in your favour to make a satisfactory 
lover." You saw that Melusine was smiling in 

[131] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

the shadow of her pale hair. "And yet you are 
very droll when you are unhappy," she said, as 
of two minds. 

He answered: "I am, as heaven made me, a 
being of mingled nature. So I remember with- 
out distaste old happenings which now seem 
scarcely true to me. I cannot quite believe that 
it was you and I who were so happy when youth 
was common to us. ... O Melusine, I have al- 
most forgotten that if the world were searched 
between the sunrise and the sunsetting the Melu- 
sine I loved would not be found. I only know 
that a woman has usurped the voice of Melusine, 
and that this woman's eyes also are blue, and that 
this woman smiles as Melusine was used to smile 
when I was very young. I walk with ghosts, 
king's daughter, and I am none the happier." 

"Ay, Perion," she wisely answered, "for the 
spring is at hand, intent upon an ageless magic. 
I am no less comely than I was, and my heart, 
I think, is tenderer. You are yet young, and you 
are very beautiful, my brave mastiff. . . . And 
neither of us is moved at all ! For us the spring 

[132] 



NOW PERION GETS AID 

is only a dotard sorcerer who has forgotten the 
spells of yesterday. I think that it is pitiable, 
although I would not have it otherwise." She 
waited, fairy-like and wanton, seeming to pre- 
meditate a delicate mischief. 

He answered, sighing, "No, I would not have 
it otherwise." 

Then presently Melusine arose. 

"You are a hunted man, unarmed — oh, yes, I 
know. Demetrios talked freely, having good and 
ancient reasons to trust me. Besides, it was not 
for nothing that Pressina was my mother, and I 
know many things, pilfering light from the past 
to shed it upon the future. Come now with me to 
Brunbelois. I am too deeply in your debt, my 
Perion. For the sake of that boy who is dead — 
as you tell me — you may honourably accept of me 
a horse, arms, and a purse, because I loved that 
boy after my fashion." 

"I take your bounty gladly," he replied; 
and he added conscientiously: "I consider that 
I am not at liberty to refuse of anybody any hon- 
est means of serving my lady Melicent." 

[133] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Melusine parted her lips as if about to speak, 
and then seemed to think better of it. It is prob- 
able she was already informed concerning Meli- 
cent; she certainly asked no questions. Melu- 
sine only shrugged, and laughed afterward, and 
they turned toward Brunbelois. At times a shaft 
of sunlight would fall on her pale hair and con- 
vert it into silver, as these two went through 
the high woods that had never yet been felled or 
ordered. 



[134] 



PART FOUR 

AHASUERUS 

Of how a knave hath late compassion 

On Melicenfs forlorn condition; 

For ivhich he saith as ye shall after hear: 

"Dame, since that game we play costeth too dear, 

My truth I plight, I shall you no more grieve 

By my behest, and here I take my leave 

As of the fairest, truest and best wife 

That ever yet I knew in all my life" 



HOW DEMETRIOS HELD THE QUEEN S STAIRWAY 

IT is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, 
telling how Demetrios returned into the 
country of the pagans and found all matters 
there as he had left them. They relate how 
Melicent was summoned. 

And the tale tells how upon the stairway by 
which you descended from the Women's Garden 
to the citadel — people called it the Queen's Stair- 
way because it was builded by Queen Rudabeh 
very long ago when the Emperor Zal held Na- 
cumera — Demetrios waited with a naked sword. 
Below were four of his soldiers, picked warriors. 
This stairway was of white marble, and a sphinx 
carved in green porphyry guarded each balus- 
trade. 

"Now that we have our audience/' Demetrios 
said, "come, let the games begin." 

One of the soldiers spoke. It was that Eu- 

[137] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

thyclos who (as you have heard) had ventured 
into Christendom to rescue the proconsul at the 
hazard of his own life. He was a man of the 
West Provinces and had followed Demetrios' for- 
tunes since boyhood. 

"King of the Age," cried Euthyclos, "it is 
grim hearing that we must fight with you. But 
since your will is our will, we must endure this 
testing, although we find it bitter as aloes and 
hot as coals. Dear lord and master, none has 
put food to his lips for whose sake we would 
harm you willingly, and we will weep to-night 
when your ghost passes over and through us." 

Demetrios answered: "Rise up and leave this 
idleness. It is I that will clip the ends of my 
hair to-night for the love of you, my stalwart 
knaves. Such weeping as is done your wounds 
will perform." 

At that they addressed themselves to battle 
and Melicent perceived she was witnessing 
no child's play. The soldiers had attacked in 
unison and before the onslaught Demetrios 
stepped lightly back. But his sword flashed as 

[138] 



A STAIRWAY IS HELD 

he moved, and with a grunt Demetrios, leaning 
far forward, dug deep into the throat of his fore- 
most assailant. The sword penetrated and 
caught in a link of the gold chain about the fel- 
low's neck, so that Demetrios was forced to 
wrench the weapon free, twisting it, as the dying 
man stumbled backward. Prostrate, he did not 
cry out, but only writhed and gave a curious bub- 
bling noise as his soul passed. 

"Come," Demetrios said, "come now, you oth- 
ers, and see what you can win of me. I warn 
you it will be dearly purchased." 

And Melicent turned away, hiding her eyes. 
She was obscurely conscious that a wanton butch- 
ery went on, hearing its blows and groans as 
if from a great distance, while she entreated the 
Virgin for deliverance from this foul place. 



[139] 



II 

HOW DEMETRIOS STRUGGLED 

THEN a hand fell upon Melicent's shoul- 
der, rousing her. It was Demetrios. 
He breathed quickly, but his voice was 
gentle. 

"It is enough," he said. "I shall not greatly 
need Flamberge when I encounter that ruddy 
innocent who is so dear to you." 

He broke off. Then he spoke again, half jeer- 
ing, half wistful. 

"And I had hoped that you would look on and 
admire my cunning at swordplay! I was anx- 
ious to seem admirable somehow in your eyes. 
... I failed. I know very well that I shall al- 
ways fail. I know that Nacumera will fall, that 
some day in your native land people will say 
'That aged woman yonder was once the wife of 
Demetrios of Anatolia who was pre-eminent 
among the heathen/ Then they will tell of how 

[140] 



DEMETRIOS STRUGGLES 



I cleft the head of an Emperor who had likened 
me to Priapos and how I dragged his successor 
from behind an arras where he hid from me, to set 
him upon the throne I did not care to take; and 
they will tell how for a while great fortune went 
with me, and I ruled over much land and was 
dreaded upon the wide sea and raised the battle- 
cry in cities that were not my own, fearing no- 
body. But you will not think of these matters, 
you will think only of your children's ailments, 
of baking and sewing and weaving tapestries, 
and of directing little household tasks. And the 
spider will spin her web in my helmet, which will 
hang as a trophy in the hall of Messire de la 
Foret." 

Then he walked beside her into the Women's 
Garden, keeping silence for a while. He seemed 
to deliberate, to reach a decision. All at once 
Demetrios began to tell of that magnanimous 
contest which he had fought out in Theodoret's 
country with Perion of the Forest. 

"To do the long-legged fellow simple justice," 
said the proconsul, as epilogue, "there is no hard- 

[Hi] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

ier knight alive. I shall always wonder whether 
or no I would have spared him had the water-de- 
mon's daughter not intervened in his behalf. Yes, 
I have had some previous dealings with her. 
Perhaps the less said concerning them, the bet- 
ter." Demetrios reflected for a while, rather 
sadly ; then his swart face cleared. "Give thanks, 
my wife, that I have found an enemy who is not 
unworthy of me. He will come soon, I think, and 
we will fight to the death. I hunger for that 
day." 

Now praise of Perion, however worded, was 
as wine to her. Demetrios saw as much, noted 
how the colour in her cheeks augmented deli- 
cately, how her eyes grew kindlier. It was his 
cue. Thereafter Demetrios very often spoke of 
Perion in that locked palace where no echo of 
the outer world might penetrate except at the 
proconsul's will. He told her, in an unfeigned 
admiration, of Perion's courage and activity, de- 
claring that no other captain since the days of 
those famous generals, Hannibal and Joshua, 
could lay claim to such pre-eminence in general 

[142] 



DEMETRIOS STRUGGLES 

estimation; and he narrated how the Free Com- 
panions had ridden through many kingdoms at 
adventure, serving many lords with valour and 
always fighting applaudably. To talk of Perion 
delighted her ; it was with such bribes that Deme- 
trios purchased where his riches did not avail; 
and Melicent no longer avoided him. 

There is scope here for compassion. The 
man's love, if it be possible so to call that force 
which mastered him, had come to be an incessant 
malady. It poisoned everything, caused him to 
find his statecraft tedious, his power profitless, 
and his vices gloomy. But chief of all he fretted 
over the standards by which the lives of Melicent 
and Perion were guided. Demetrios thought 
these criteria comely, he had discovered them to 
be unshakable, and he despairingly knew that as 
long as he trusted in the judgment heaven gave 
him they must always appear to him supremely 
idiotic. To bring Melicent to his own level or 
to bring himself to hers was equally impossible. 
There were times when he hated her. 

Thus the months passed, and the happenings 

[143] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

of a year were chronicled ; and as yet neither Pe- 
rion nor Ayrart de Montors came to Nacumera, 
and the long plain before the citadel stayed ten- 
antless save for the jackals crying there at night. 
"I wonder that my enemies do not come," 
Demetrios said. "It cannot be they have for- 
gotten you and me. That is impossible." He 
frowned and sent spies into Christendom. 



[144] 



Ill 

HOW MISERY HELD NACUMERA 

THEN one day Demetrios came to Meli- 
cent in a surly rage. 
"Rogues all!" he grumbled. "Oh, I 
am wasted in this paltry age. Where are the 
giants and tyrants, and stalwart single-hearted 
champions of yesterday? Why, they are dead, 
and have become rotten bones. I will fight no 
longer. I will read legends instead, for life now- 
adays is no longer worthy of love or hatred." 

Melicent questioned him, and he told how his 
spies reported that the Cardinal de Montors at 
least would never head an expedition against 
Demetrios' territories, having other matters in 
hand. The Pope had died suddenly in the course 
of the preceding October and it was necessary to 
name his successor. The College of Cardinals 
had reached no decision after three days' ballot- 
ing. Then, as is notorious, Dame Melusine, as 

[ 145 ] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

always hand in glove with Ayrart de Montors, 
held conference with the bishop who inspected 
the cardinals' dinner. 

The Cardinal of Genoa received on the fourth 
day a chicken stuffed with a deed to the palaces 
of Monticello and Soriano ; the Cardinal of Parma 
a similarly dressed fowl which made him master 
of the bishop's residence at Porto with its furni- 
ture and wine-cellar ; while the Cardinals Orsino, 
Savelli, St. Angelo and Colonna were served 
with food of the same appetising sort. There 
was an end to indecision, and Ayrart de Montors 
had presently ascended the papal throne under 
the title of Adrian VII, servant to the servants 
of God. His days of military captaincy were 
over. 

Demetrios deplored the loss of a formidable 
adversary, and jeered at the fact that the vicar- 
ship of heaven had been settled by six hens. But 
he particularly fretted over other news his 'spies 
had brought, which was the information that Pe- 
rion had wedded Dame Melusine, and had begot- 
ten two lusty children — Bertram and a daughter 

[i 4 6] 



NOW NACUMERA IS HELD 

called Blaniferte — and now enjoyed the opulence 
and sovereignty of Brunbelois. 

Demetrios told this unwillingly. He turned 
away his eyes in speaking, and doggedly affected 
to re-arrange a cushion, so that he might not see 
the face of Melicent. She noted his action and 
was grateful. 

Demetrios said, bitterly: "It is an old and 
tawdry history. He has forgotten you, Melicent, 
as a wise man will always put aside the dreams 
of his youth. To Cynara the Fates accord but 
a few years; a wanton Lyce laughs, cheats her 
adorers, and outlives the crow. There is an un- 
intended moral here — " Demetrios said: "Yet 
you do not forget." 

"I know nothing of this Perion you tell me 
of. I only know the Perion I loved has not for- 
gotten/' answered Melicent. 

And Demetrios, evincing a twinge like that of 
gout, demanded her reasons. It was a May 
morning, very hot and still, and they sat in the 
Court of Stars. 

Said Melicent: "It is not unlikely that the 

[147] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Perion men know to-day has forgotten me and 
one slight service which I joyed to render Perion. 
Let him who would understand the mystery of 
the Crucifixion first become a lover! I pray for 
old sake's sake that Perion and his lady may 
taste of every prosperity. Indeed, I do not envy 
her. Rather I pity her, because last night I wan- 
dered through a certain forest hand-in-hand with 
a young Perion, whose excellencies she will never 
know as I know them in our own woods." 

Said Demetrios: "Do you console yourself 
with dreams?" The swart man grinned. 

"Now it is always twilight in these woods, and 
the light there is neither green nor gold, but both 
colours intermingled. It is like a friendly cloak 
for all who have been unhappy, even very long 
ago. Iseult is there, and Thisbe, too, and many 
others, and they are not severed from their lovers 
now. . . . Sometimes Dame Venus passes, rid- 
ing upon a panther, and low-hanging leaves 
clutch at her tender flesh. Then Perion and I 
peep from a coppice and are very glad and a 
little frightened in the heart of our own woods." 

[i 4 8] 



NOW NACUMERA IS HELD 

Said Demetrios: "Do you console yourself 
with madness ?" He showed no sign of mirth. 

"Ah, no, the Perion whom Melusine possesses is 
but a man — a very happy man, I pray of God and 
all His saints. I am the luckier, who may not 
ever lose the Perion that to-day is mine alone. 
And though I may not ever touch this younger 
Perion's hands — even their palms were hard as 
leather in that dear time now overpast — or see 
again his honest and courageous face, the most 
beautiful among all the faces of men and women 
I have ever seen, I do not grieve immeasurably, 
for nightly we walk hand-in-hand in our own 
woods. 

"Seignior, although the severing daylight en- 
dures for a long while, I must be brave and 
worthy of Perion's love — nay, rather of the love 
he gave me once. I may not grieve so long as 
no one else dares enter into our own woods." 

"Now go," said the proconsul when she had 
done, and he had noted her soft, deep, devoted 
gaze at one who was not there; "now go before 
I slay you !" And this new Demetrios whom she 

[149] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

then saw was featured like a devil in sore tor- 
ment. 

Wonderingly Melicent obeyed him. 

Thought Melicent, who was too proud to show 
her anguish: "I could have borne aught else, 
but this I am too cowardly to bear without com- 
plaint. I am a very contemptible person. I 
ought to love this Melusine, who no doubt loves 
him quite as much as I do — how could she do 
else? — and yet I cannot. I can only weep that I, 
robbed of all joy and with no children to bewail 
me, must travel very tediously toward death, a 
friendless woman cursed by fate, while this Melu- 
sine laughs with her children. She has two chil- 
dren, as Demetrios reports. I think the boy must 
be the more like Perion. I think she must be 
very happy when she lifts that boy into her lap." 

Thus Melicent; and her full-blooded husband 
was not much more lighthearted. He went away 
from Nacumera shortly, in a shaking rage which 
robbed him of his hands' control, intent to kill 
and pillage, and, in fine, to make all other per- 
sons share his misery. 

[150] 



IV 

I 

HOW DEMETRIOS CRIED FAREWELL 

AND then one day, when the proconsul 
had been absent some six weeks, Aha- 
suerus fetched Dame Melicent into the 
Court of Stars. Demetrios lay upon the divan 
supported by many pillows, as though he had not 
ever stirred since that first day when an unfet- 
tered Melicent, who was a princess then, exulted 
in her youth and comeliness. 

"Stand there," he said, and did not move at 
all, "that I may see my purchase." 

And presently he smiled, though wryly. 

"Of my own will I purchased misery. Yea, 
and death also. It is amusing. . . . Two days 
ago, in a brief skirmish, a league north of Ca- 
lonak, the Frankish leader met me hand to hand. 
He has endeavoured to bring this about for a long 
while. I also wished it. Nothing could be 
sweeter than to feel the horse beneath me wading 

[151] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

in his blood, I thought. . . . Ey, well, he dis- 
mounted me at the first encounter, though I am 
no weakling. I cannot understand quite how it 
happened. Pious people will say some deity 
was offended, but for my part, I think my horse 
stumbled. It does not seem to matter now. 
What really matters, more or less, is that it would 
appear the man broke my backbone as one snaps 
a straw, since I cannot move a limb of me below 
the shoulders." 

"Seignior," said Melicent, "you mean that you 
are dying!" 

He answered : "Yes, but it is a trivial discom- 
fort, now I see that it grieves you a little." 

She spoke his name some three times, sobbing. 
It was in her mind even then how strange it was 
that she should grieve for Demetrios. 

"O Melicent," he harshly said, "let us have 
done with lies. That Frankish captain who has 
brought about my death is Perion de la Foret. 
He has not ever faltered in the duel between us 
since your paltry emeralds paid for his first arma- 
ment. — Why, yes, I lied. I always hoped the 

[152] 



FAREWELL IS CRIED 

man would do as in his place I would have done. 
I hoped in vain. For many long and hard- 
fought years this handsome maniac has been as- 
sailing Nacumera, tirelessly. Then the water- 
demon's daughter, that strange and wayward 
woman of Brunbelois, attempted to ensnare 
him. And that too was in vain. She failed, my 
spies reported — even Dame Melusine, who had 
not ever failed before in such endeavours." 

"And why?" said Melicent. A glorious 
change had come into her lovely face. 

"Because of you. En cor gentil domnei per 
mort no passa, as they sing in your native country. 
Ey, how indomitably I lied, what pains I took, lest 
you should ever know of this ! And now it does not 
seem to matter any more. . . . The love this man 
bears for you," snarled Demetrios, "is sprung 
of the High God whom we diversely worship. 
The love I bear you is only human, since I, too, 
am only human." And Demetrios chuckled. 
"Talk, and talk, and talk! There is no bird in 
any last year's nest." 

She laid her hand upon his unmoved hand, and 

[153] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

found it cold and swollen. She wept to see the 
broken tyrant, who to her at least had been not 
all unkind. 

He said, with a great hunger in his eyes : "So 
likewise ends the duel which was fought between 
us two. I would salute the victor if I could. 
. . . Ey, Melicent, I still consider you and Perion 
are fools. We have a not intolerable world to live 
in, and common sense demands we make the most 
of every tidbit it affords. Yet you can find in 
it only an exercising-ground for infatuation, and 
in all its contents — pleasures and pains alike — 
only so many obstacles for rapt insanity to over- 
ride. I do not understand this mania; I would 
I might have known it, none the less. Always 
I envied you more than I loved you. Always 
my desire was less to win the love of Melicent 
than to love Melicent as Melicent loved Perion. 
I was incapable of this. Yet I have loved you. 
That was the reason, I believe, I put aside my 
purchased toy." It seemed to puzzle him. 

"Fair friend, it is the most honourable of rea- 
sons. You have done knightly. In this, at 

[154] 



FAREWELL IS CRIED 

least, you have done that which would be not un- 
worthy of Perion de la Foret." A woman 
never avid for strained subtleties, it may be that 
she never understood, quite, why Demetrios 
laughed. 

He said : "I mean to serve you now, as I had 
always meant to serve you some day. Ey, yes, 
I think I always meant to give you back to Perion 
as a free gift. Meanwhile to see, and writhe in 
seeing, your perfection has meant so much to 
me that daily I have delayed such a transfigura- 
tion of myself until to-morrow." The man 
grimaced. "My son Orestes, who will pres- 
ently succeed me, has been summoned. I will 
order that he conduct you at once into Perion's 
camp — yonder by Quesiton. I think I shall not 
live three days." 

"I would not leave you, friend, until — " 

His grin was commentary and completion 
equally. 

"A dead dog has no teeth wherewith to serve 
even virtue. Oh, no, my women hate you far 
too greatly. You must go straightway to this 
[iS5] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Perion, while Demetrios of Anatolia is alive, or 
else not ever go." 

She had no words. She wept, and less for 
joy of winning home to Perion at last than for 
her grief that Demetrios was dying. And, 
woman-like, she could remember only that the 
man had loved her in his fashion. And, woman- 
like, she could but wonder at the strength of Pe- 
rion. 

Then Demetrios said: "I must depart into a 
doubtful exile. I have been powerful and val- 
iant, I have laughed loud, I have drunk deep, 
but heaven no longer wishes Demetrios to exist. 
I am unable to support my sadness, so near am 
I to my departure from all I have loved. I cry 
farewell to all diversions and sports, to well- 
fought battles, to furred robes of vair and of silk, 
to noisy merriment, to music, to vain-gloriously 
coloured gems, and to brave deeds in open sun- 
light ; for I desire — and I entreat of every person 
■ — only compassion and pardon. 

"Chiefly I grieve because I must leave Meli- 
cent behind me, in a perilous land, abandoned to 

[156] 



FAREWELL IS CRIED 

the mercy of all those who wish her ill. I was 
a noted warrior, I was mighty of muscle, and I 
could have defended her stoutly. But I lie 
broken in the hand of Destiny. It is necessary 
I depart into the place where sinners, whether 
crowned or ragged, must seek for unearned 
mercy. I cry farewell to all that I have loved, 
to all that I have injured; and so in chief to you, 
dear Melicent, I cry farewell, and of you in chief 
I crave compassion and pardon. 

"O eyes and hair and lips of Melicent, that I 
have loved so long, I do not hunger for you now. 
Yet, as a dying man, I cry to the clean soul of 
Melicent — the only adversary that in all my life- 
time I who was once Demetrios could never con- 
quer. A ravening beast was I, and as a beast I 
raged to see you so unlike me. And now, a dying 
beast, I cry to you, but not for love, since that is 
overpast. I cry for pity that I have not earned, 
for pardon which I have not merited. Con- 
quered and impotent, I cry to you, O soul of 
Melicent, for compassion and pardon. 

"Melicent, it may be that when I am dead, 
[157] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

when nothing remains of Demetrios except his 
tomb, you will comprehend I loved, even while I 
hated, what is divine in you. Then since you 
are a woman, you will lift your lover's face be- 
tween your hands, as you have never lifted my 
face, Melicent, and you will tell him of my folly 
merrily; yet since you are a woman, you will 
sigh afterward, and you will not deny me com- 
passion and pardon." 

She gave him both — she who was prodigal of 
charity. Orestes came, with Ahasuerus at his 
heels, and Demetrios sent Melicent into the Wom- 
en's Garden, so that father and son might talk 
together. She waited in this place for a half- 
hour, just as the proconsul had commanded her, 
consciously obeying him for the last time. 

It was not gladness which Melicent knew for 
a brief while. Rather, it was a strange new 
comprehension of the world. To Melicent the 
world seemed very lovely. 

Indeed, the Women's Garden on this morning 
lacked nothing to delight each sense. Its hedges 

[158] 



FAREWELL IS CRIED 

were of flowering jessamine; its walkways were 
spread with new sawdust tinged with crocus and 
vermilion and with mica beaten into a powder ; 
and it was rich in fruit-bearing trees and welling 
waters. The sun shone, and birds chaunted mer- 
rily to the right hand and to the left. Dog- 
headed apes, sacred to the moon, were chattering 
in the trees. There was a statue in this place, 
carved out of black stone, in the likeness of a 
woman, having enamelled eyes and three rows of 
breasts, with the lower part of her body confined 
in a sheath; and upon its glistening pedestal 
chameleons sunned themselves with distended 
throats. Round about Melicent were nodding 
armaments of roses and gillyflowers and narcissi 
and amaranths, and many violets and white lilies, 
and other flowers of all kinds and colours. 

To Melicent the world seemed very lovely. 
Here was a world created by Eternal Love 
that people might serve love in it not all unworth- 
ily. Here were anguishes to be endured, and 
time and human frailty and temporal hardship — 
all for love to mock at; a sea or two for love to 

[159] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

sever, a man-made law or so for love to override, 
a shallow wisdom for love to deny, in exultance 
that these ills at most were only corporal hin- 
drances. This done, you have the right to come 
— come hand-in-hand — to heaven whose liegelord 
was Eternal Love. 

Thus Melicent, who knew that Perion loved 
her. 

She did not dare to think of seeing Perion 
again. She only made a little song in her clean 
heart because of him, which had not any words 
to it, so that it is not possible here to retail this 
song. 

Thus Melicent, who knew that Perion loved 
her. 



[160] 



M 



HOW ORESTES RULED 

ELICENT returned into the Court of 
Stars; and as she entered, Orestes 
lifted one of the red cushions from 
Demetrios' face. The eyes of Ahasuerus, who 
stood by negligently, were as expressionless as 
the eyes of a snake. 

"The great proconsul laid an inconvenient 
mandate upon me," said Orestes. "The great 
proconsul has been removed from us in order 
that his splendour may enhance the glories of 
Elysium." 

She saw that the young man had smothered 
his own father in the flesh as he lay helpless ; and 
knew thereby he was indeed the son of Deme- 
trios. 

"Go," this Orestes said thereafter ; "go, and re- 
member I am master here." 

Said Melicent: "And by which door?" A 
little hope there was as yet. 

[ 161 ] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

But he, as half in shame, had pointed to the 
entrance of the Women's Garden. "I have no 
enmity against you, outlander. Yet my mother 
desires to talk with you. Also there is some bar- 
gaining to be completed with Ahasuerus here." 

Then Melicent knew what had prompted the 
proconsul's murder. It seemed unfair Callistion 
should hate her with such bitterness; yet she re- 
membered certain thoughts concerning Dame 
Melusine, and did not wonder at Callistion's mania 
half so much as did Callistion's son. 

"I must endure discomfort and it may be tor- 
ture for a little longer," said Melicent, and 
laughed whole-heartedly. "Oh, but to-day I find 
a cure for every ill," said Melicent; and there- 
upon she left Orestes as a princess should. 

But first she knelt by that which yesterday had 
been her master. 

"I have no word of praise or blame to give 
you in farewell. You were not admirable, Deme- 
trios. But you depart upon a fearful journey, 
and in my heart there is just memory of the long 
years wherein according to your fashion you were 

[162] 



NOW ORESTES RULES 

kind to me. A bargain is a bargain. I sold 
with open eyes that which you purchased. I may 
not reproach you." 

Then Melicent lifted the dead face between her 
hands, as mothers caress their boys in questioning 
them. 

"I would I had done this when you were 
living, ,, said Melicent, "because I understand 
now that you loved me in your fashion. And I 
pray that you may know I am the happiest woman 
in the world, because I think this knowledge 
would now gladden you. I go to slavery, Deme- 
trios, where I was queen, I go to hardship, and 
it may be that I go to death. But I have learned 
this assuredly — that love endures, that the strong 
knot which unites my heart and Perion's can 
never be untied. Oh, living is a higher thing 
than you or I had dreamed! And I have in my 
heart just pity, poor Demetrios, for you who 
never found the love of which I must endeavour 
to be worthy. A curse was I to you unwillingly, 
as you — I now believe — have been to me against 
your will. So at the last I turn anew to bar- 

[163] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

gaining and cry — in your deaf ears — Pardon for 
pardon, O Demetrios!" 

Then Melicent kissed pitiable lips which would 
not ever sneer again, and, rising, passed into the 
Women's Garden, proudly and unafraid. 

Ahasuerus shrugged so patiently that she was 
half afraid. Then, as a cloud passes, she saw 
that all further bufferings would of necessity be 
trivial. For Perion, as she now knew, was very 
near to her — single of purpose, clean of hands, 
and filled with such a love as thrilled her with 
delicious fears of her own poor unworthiness. 



[i6 4 ] 



VI 

HOW WOMEN TALKED TOGETHER 

DAME MELICENT walked proudly 
through the Women's Garden, and pres- 
ently entered a grove of orange trees, 
the most of which were at this season about 
their flowering. In this place was an artificial 
pool by which the trees were nourished. On its 
embankment sprawled the body of young Dio- 
phantus, a child of some ten years of age, Deme- 
trios' son by Tryphera. Orestes had strangled 
Diophantus in order that there might be no rival 
to Orestes' claims. The lad lay on his back, and 
his left arm hung elbow-deep in the water, which 
swayed it gently. 

Callistion sat beside the corpse and stroked its 
limp right hand. She had hated the boy through- 
out his brief and merry life. She thought now 
of his likeness to Demetrios. 

She raised the dilated eyes of one who has just 
come from a dark place. 

[165] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

"And so Demetrios is dead. I thought I would 
be glad when I said that. Hah, it is strange I 
am not glad." 

She rose, as with hard effort, as a decrepit per- 
son might have done. You saw that she was 
dressed in a long gown of black, pleated to the 
knees, having no clasp or girdle, and bare of 
any ornamentation except a gold star on each 
breast. 

"Now, through my son, I reign in Nacumera. 
There is no person who dares disobey me. 
Therefore, come close to me that I may see the 
beauty which besotted this Demetrios whom, I 
think now, I must have loved." 

"Oh, gaze your fill," said Melicent, "and know 
that had you possessed a tithe of it you might 
have held the heart of Demetrios." For it was 
in Melicent's mind to provoke the woman into 
killing her before worse befell. 

But Callistion only studied the proud face for 
a long while and knew there was no lovelier per- 
son between two seas. 

"No, I was not ever so beautiful as you. Yet 
[166] 



WOMEN TALK TOGETHER 

this Demetrios loved me when I, too, was young. 
You never saw the man in battle. I saw him, 
single-handed, fight with Abradas and three other 
knaves who stole me from my mother's home — 
oh, very long ago! He killed all four of them. 
He was like a horrible unconquerable god when 
he turned from that finished fight to me. He 
kissed me then — blood-smeared, just as he was. 
... I like to think of how he laughed and of how 
strong he was." 

The woman turned and crouched by the dead 
boy and seemed painstakingly to appraise her 
own reflection on the water's surface. 

"It is gone now, the comeliness Demetrios was 
pleased to like. I would have waded Acheron 
— and singing — rather than let his little finger 
ache. He knew as much. Only it seemed a 
trifle, because your eyes were bright and your 
fair skin was unwrinkled. In consequence the 
man is dead. Oh, Melicent, I wonder why I am 
so sad 1" 

Her meditative eyes were dry, but those of 
Melicent were not. The girl came to the Dacian 

[167] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

woman and put one arm about her in that dim, 
sweet-scented place. 

"I never meant to wrong you." 

Callistion did not seem to heed. 

"See now! Do you not see the difference be- 
tween us !" These two knelt side by side by this, 
and each looked into the water. 

Callistion said : "I do not wonder that Deme- 
trios loved you. He loved at odd times many 
women. He loved the mother of this carrion 
here. But afterward he would come back to me, 
and lie asprawl at my feet with his big crafty 
head between my knees; and I would stroke his 
hair, and we would talk of the old days when we 
were young. He never spoke of you. I cannot 
pardon that." 

"I know," said Melicent. Their cheeks 
touched now. 

"There is only one master who could teach you 
that drear knowledge — " 

"There is but one, Callistion." 

"He would be tall, I think. He would, I know, 
have thick, brown, curling hair — " 

[168] 



WOMEN TALK TOGETHER 

"He has black hair, Callistion. It glistens like 
a raven's wing." 

"His face would be all pink and white, like 
yours — " 

"Nay, tanned like yours, Callistion. Oh, he 
is like an eagle, very resolute. His glance be- 
dwarfs you. I used to be afraid to look at him, 
even when I saw how foolishly he loved me — " 

"I know," Callistion said. "All women know. 
Ah, we know many things — " 

She reached with her free arm across the body 
of Diophantus and presently dropped a stone into 
the pool. 

"See how the water ripples. There is not any 
trace now either of my poor face or of your 
beauty. All is as wavering as a man's heart. 
. . . And now your beauty is regathering like 
coloured mists. Yet I have other stones." 

"Oh, and the will to use them!" said Dame 
Melicent. 

"For this bright thieving beauty is not any 
longer yours. It is mine now, to do with as I 
may elect — as yesterday it was the plaything of 

[i6 9 ] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Demetrios. . . . Why, no ! I think I will not kill 
you. I have at hand three very cunning Cheylas 
— the men who carve and reshape children into 
such droll monsters. They cannot change your 
eyes, they tell me. It is a pity, but I can have 
one plucked out. Then I will watch them as they 
widen your mouth from ear to ear, take out the 
cartilage from your nose, wither your hair till 
it will always be like rotted hay, and turn your 
skin — which is like velvet now — the colour of 
baked mud. They will as deftly strip you of that 
beauty which has robbed me as I pluck up this 
blade of grass. . . . Oh, they will make you the 
most hideous of living things, they assure me. 
Otherwise, as they agree, I shall kill them. This 
done, you may go freely to your lover. I fear, 
though, lest you may not love him as I loved 
Demetrios." 

And Melicent said nothing. 

"For all we women know, my sister, our ap- 
pointed curse. To love the man and know the 
man loves just the lips and eyes Youth lends to 
us — oho, for such a little while ! Yes, it is cruel. 

[170] 



WOMEN TALK TOGETHER 

And therefore we are cruel — always in thought 
and, when occasion offers, in the deed." 

And Melicent said nothing. For of that mu- 
tual love she shared with Perion, so high and 
splendid that it made of grief a music, and wrung 
a new sustainment out of every cross, as men get 
cordials of bitter herbs, she knew there was no 
comprehension here. 



[171] 



VII 

HOW MEN ORDERED MATTERS 

ORESTES came into the garden with 
Ahasuerus and nine other attendants. 
The master of Nacumera did not speak 
a syllable while his retainers seized Callistion, 
gagged her, and tied her hands with cords. They 
silently removed her. One among them bore on 
his shoulders the slim corpse of Diophantus, 
which was interred the same afternoon (with 
every appropriate ceremony) in company with 
that of his father. Orestes had the nicest sense 
of etiquette. 

This series of swift deeds was performed with 
such a glib precipitancy it was as though the ac- 
tion had been rehearsed a score of times. The 
garden was all drowsy peace now that Orestes 
spread his palms in a gesture of deprecation. A 
little distance from him Ahasuerus with his fore- 
finger drew upon the water's surface designs 
which appeared to amuse him. 

[172] 



MEN ORDER MATTERS 

"She would have killed you, Melicent," Orestes 
said, "though all Olympus had marshalled in in- 
terdiction. That would have been irreligious. 
Moreover, by Hercules! I have not time to 
choose sides between snarling women. He who 
hunts with cats will catch mice. I aim more 
highly. And besides, by an incredible forced 
march, this Comte de la Foret and all his Free 
Companions are battering at the gates of Nacu- 
mera — " 

Hope blazed. "You know that were I harmed 
he would spare no one. Your troops are all at 
Calonak. Oh, God is very good !" said Melicent. 

"I do not asperse the deities of any nation. 
It is unlucky. Yet your desires outpace your 
reason. For grant that I had not more than 
fifty men to defend the garrison, yet Nacumera 
is impregnable except by starvation. We can sit 
snug a month. Meanwhile our main force is at 
Calonak undoubtedly. Yet my infatuated father 
had already recalled these troops in order that 
they might escort you into Messire de la Foret's 
camp. Now I shall use these knaves quite other- 

[ 173 ] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

wise. They will arrive within two days, and to 
the rear of Messire de la Foret, who is encamped 
before an impregnable fortress. To the front 
unscalable walls, and behind him, at a moderate 
computation, three swords to his one. All this in 
a valley from which Daedalus might possibly es- 
cape, but certainly no other man. I count this 
Perion of the Forest as already dead." 

It was a lumbering Orestes who proclaimed 
each step in his enchained deductions by the de- 
scent of a blunt forefinger upon the palm of his 
left hand. Demetrios had left a son but not an 
heir. 

Yet the chain held. She tested every link and 
found each obdurate. She foresaw it all. Pe- 
rion would be surrounded and overpowered. 
"And these troops come from Calonak because of 
me!" 

"Things fall about with an odd patness, as you 
say. It should teach you not to talk about di- 
vinities lightly. Also, by this Jew's advice, I 
mean to further their indisputable work. For 
you will appear upon the walls of Nacumera at 

[174] 



MEN ORDER MATTERS 

dawn to-morrow in such a garb as you wore in 
your native country when the Comte de la Foret 
first saw you. Ahasuerus estimates he will not 
readily leave pursuit of you in that event, what- 
ever his lieutenants urge, for you are very beau- 
tiful." 

Melicent cried aloud: "A bitter curse this 
beauty has been to me! ay, and to all men who 
have desired it." 

"But I do not desire it," said Orestes. "Else 
I would not have sold it to Ahasuerus. I desire 
only the governorship of some province on the 
frontier where I may fight daily with stalwart ad- 
versaries and ride past the homes of conquered 
persons who hate me. Ahasuerus here assures 
me that the Emperor will not deny me such em- 
ployment when I bring him the head of Messire 
de la Foret. The raids of Messire de la Foret 
have irreligiously annoyed our Emperor for a 
long while." 

She muttered, "Thou that once wore a woman's 
body—!" 

"And I take Ahasuerus to be shrewd in all 

[175] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

respects save one. For he desires trivialities. 
A wise man knows that women are the sauce and 
not the meat of life; Ahasuerus, therefore, is not 
wise. And in consequence I do not lack a hand- 
some bribe for this Bathyllos whom our good 
Emperor — misguided man! — is weak enough to 
love; my mother goes in chains; and I shall get 
my province." 

Here Orestes laughed. And thus the young 
man left them. 



[i 7 6] 



VIII 

HOW AHASUERUS WAS CANDID 

WHEN Orestes had gone, the Jew re- 
mained unmoved. He continued to 
dabble his finger-tips in the water as 
one who meditates. Presently he dried them on 
either sleeve so that he seemed to embrace him- 
self. 

"What instruments we use at need!" 

She said: "So you have purchased me, Aha- 
suerus ?" 

"Ay, for a hundred and two minse. It was a 
great sum. You are not as the run of women, 
though." 

She did not speak. The sun shone, and birds 
chaunted merrily to the right hand and to the left. 
She was considering the beauty of these gardens 
which seemed to sleep under a dome of hard, pol- 
ished blue — the beauty of this cloistered Nacu- 



THE SOUL OF M E L I C E N T 

mera, wherein so many infamies writhed and con- 
tended like a nest of little serpents. 

"Do you remember that night at Fomor Beach 
when you snatched a lantern from my hand? 
Your hand touched my hand, Melicent." 

She answered : "I remember." 

"I first of all saw that it was a woman who 
was aiding Perion to escape. I considered Pe- 
rion a lucky man, for I had seen the woman's 
face." 

She remained silent. 

"I thought of this woman very often. I 
thought of her even more frequently after I had 
talked with her at Bellegarde, telling of Perion's 
captivity. . . . Melicent," the Jew said, "I make 
no songs. My deeds must speak for me. Con- 
cede that I have laboured patiently." He paused, 
his gaze lifted, and his lips smiled. His eyes 
stayed mirthless. "This mad Callistion's hate of 
you and of the Demetrios who had abandoned her 
was my first stepping-stone. By my advice a tiny 
wire was fastened very tightly around the fetlock 
of a certain horse, between the foot and the heel, 

[178] 



AHASUERUS IS CANDID 

and the hair was smoothed over it. Demetrios 
rode that horse in his last battle. It stumbled, and 
our terrible proconsul was thus brought to death. 
Callistion managed it. Thus I betrayed Deme- 
trios." 

She said : "You are too foul for hell to swal- 
low." And he manifested indifference to this im- 
puted fault. 

"Thus far I had gone hand-in-hand with an 
insane Callistion. Now our ways parted. She 
desired only to be avenged on you, and very 
crudely. That did not fall in with my plan. I 
fell to bargaining. I purchased — O rarity of 
rarities ! — with a little rational advice and much 
gold as well. Thus in due season I betrayed 
Callistion. Well, who forbids it?" 

She said: "God is asleep. Therefore you 
live and I — alas ! — must live for a while longer." 

"Yes, you must live for a while longer — oh, 
and I, too, must live for a while longer !" the Jew 
returned. His voice had risen in a curious quav- 
ering wail. It was the first time she ever knew 
him to display any emotion. 

[179] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

But the mood passed, and he said only: "Who 
forbids it? In any event, there is a venerable 
adage concerning the buttering of parsnips. So 
I content myself with asking you to remember 
that I have not ever faltered. I shall not falter 
now. You loathe me. Who forbids it ? I have 
known from the first you detested me, and have 
always considered your verdict to err upon the 
side of charity. Believe me, you will never loathe 
Ahasuerus as I do. And yet I coddle this poor 
knave sometimes — oh, as I do to-day !" he said. 

And thus they parted. 



[180] 



IX 

HOW PERION SAW MELICENT 

THE manner of the torment of Melicent 
was this : A little before dawn she was 
conducted by Ahasuerus and Orestes to 
the outermost turrets of Nacumera, which were 
now beginning to take form and colour. Very sud- 
denly a flash of light had flooded the valley, the big 
crimson sun was instantaneously apparent as 
though he had leaped over the bleeding night- 
mists. Darkness and all night's adherents were 
annihilated. Pelicans and geese and curlews 
were in uproar as at a concerted signal. A buz- 
zard yelped thrice like a dog, and rose in a long 
spiral from the cliff to Melicent's right hand. 
He hung motionless, a speck in the clear zenith, 
uncannily anticipative. Warmth flooded the val- 
ley. 

Now Melicent could see the long and narrow 
plain beneath her. It was overgrown with a 

[181] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

coarse, rippling grass which mimicked rising wa- 
ters from this distance, save where clumps of palm 
trees showed like islands. Farther off the tents 
of the Free Companions were as the white, sharp 
teeth of a lion. Also she could see — and did not 
recognise — the helmet-covered head of Perion as 
he knelt in the wavering grass just out of bow- 
shot. 

Now Perion could see a woman standing in 
the new-born sunlight under many gaily col- 
oured banners. The maiden was attired in a robe 
of white silk, and about her wrists were heavy 
bands of silver. Her hair blazed in the light, 
bright as the sunflower glows; her skin was 
whiter than milk; the down of a fledgling bird 
was not more grateful to the touch than were 
her hands. Whoso beheld her was fulfilled with 
love. This much could Perion know, whose fond 
eyes did not really see the woman upon the battle- 
ments but only Dame Melicent as Perion first be- 
held her walking by the sea at Bellegarde. 

Thus Perion, who knelt in adoration of that 
listless girl, all white and silver, and gold, too, 

[182] 



PERION SEES MELICENT 

where her blown hair showed like a halo. De- 
sirable and lovelier than words may express 
seemed Melicent to Perion as she stood thus in 
lonely exaltation, and behind her glorious ban- 
ners fluttered and the blue sky took on a deeper 
colour. What Perion saw was like a church win- 
dow when the sun shines through it. Aha- 
suerus perfectly understood the baiting of a trap. 

Perion came unarmed into the open plain be- 
fore the castle and called on her dear name three 
times. Then Perion, thus naked to his enemies, 
sang cheerily that waking-song which Melicent 
had heard a mimic Amphitryon make in Dame 
Alcmena's honour, very long ago, when people 
laughed and Melicent was young and ignorant of 
misery. 

Sang Perion : 

"Rei glorios, verais lums e clardatz — " 
or, in other wording: "Thou King of glory, 
veritable light, all-powerful deity! be pleased to 
succour faithfully my fair, sweet friend. The 
night that severed us has been long and bitter, 
but now the dawn is near at hand. My fair 

[183] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

sweet friend, be of good heart! We have been 
tormented long enough by evil dreams. Be of 
good heart, for the dawn is approaching ! I have 
seen the orient star which heralds day. I dis- 
cern it clearly, for now the dawn is near at hand." 

The song was no great matter; but the splen- 
did futility of its performance amid such touch- 
and-go surroundings Melicent considered to be 
august. And consciousness of his words' pov- 
erty, as Perion thus lightly played with death in 
order to accord her reverence, was to Dame Meli- 
cent in her high martyrdom as is the twist of a 
dagger in an already fatal wound ; and made her 
love augment. 

Sang Perion: "My fair sweet friend, it is I, 
your lover, who cry to you, Be of good heart! 
Regard the sky and the stars now growing dim, 
and you will see that I have been an untiring 
sentinel. It will presently fare the worse for 
those who do not recognise that the dawn is near 
at hand. My fair sweet friend, since you were 
taken from me I have not ever been of a divided 
mind. I have kept faith, I have not failed you. 

[i8 4 ] 



PERION SEES MELICENT 

Hourly I have entreated God and the Son of 
Mary to have compassion upon our evil dreams. 
And now the dawn is near at hand." 

"My poor, bruised, puzzled boy, ,, thought 
Melicent, as she had done so long ago, "how 
came you to be blundering about this miry world 
of ours? And how may I be worthy?" 

Orestes spoke. His voice disturbed the wom- 
an's rapture thinly, like the speech of a ghost, 
and she remembered now the bustling world was 
her antagonist. 

"Assuredly," Orestes said, "this man is crazed. 
I will forthwith command my archers to despatch 
him in the middle of his caterwauling. For at 
this distance they cannot miss him." 

But Ahasuerus said: "Nay, seignior, not by 
my advice. If you slay this Perion of the Forest, 
his retainers will speedily abandon a desperate 
siege and retreat to the coast. But they will 
never retreat so long as the man lives and sways 
them, and we hold Melicent, for, as you plainly 
see, this abominable reprobate is quite besotted 
with love of her. His death would win you 

[185] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

praise; but the destruction of his armament will 
purchase you your province. Now in two days 
at most our troops will come, and then we will 
slay all the Free Companions." 

So Orestes was ruled by him, and Perion, 
through no merit of his own, departed unharmed. 

Then Melicent was conducted to her own apart- 
ments; and eunuchs guarded her, while the bat- 
tle was, and men she had not ever seen died by 
the score because her beauty was so great. 



[186] 



X 

HOW MELICENT CRIED A NEW BARGAIN 

NOW about sunset Melicent knelt in her 
oratory and laid all her grief before the 
Virgin, imploring counsel. 

This place was in reality a chapel which Deme- 
trios had builded for Melicent in exquisite en- 
joyment. To furnish it he had sacked towns she 
never heard of, and had rifled two cathedrals, 
because the notion that his wife should own a 
chapel appeared to him amusing. The Virgin, 
a masterpiece of Pietro di Vicenza, he had pur- 
chased by the interception of a free city's navy. 
It was a painted statue, very handsome. 

The sunlight shone on Melicent through a 
richly coloured window wherein were shown the 
sufferings of Christ and the two thieves. This 
siftage made a welter of glowing and intermin- 
gling colours all about her, above which her head 
shone with a clear halo. 

[187] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

This much Ahasuerus noted. 

"You offer tears to Mary of Bethlehem. Yon- 
der they are sacrificing a bull to Mithras. But 
I do not make either offering or prayer to any 
god. Yet of all persons in Nacumera I alone am 
sure of this day's outcome." Thus spoke the Jew 
Ahasuerus. 

The woman stood erect now. 

"What of the day, Ahasuerus?" 

"It has been much like other days that I have 
seen. The sun rose without any perturbation. 
And now it sinks as usual. Oh, true, there has 
been fighting. The sky has been clouded with 
arrows, and horses, nicer than their masters, have 
screamed because they were appalled by so much 
blood. Many women have become widows, and 
divers children are made orphans, because of two 
huge eyes they never saw. Puf! it is an old 
tale." 

She said : "Is Perion hurt ?" 

"Is the dog quickly hurt that has driven a cat 
into a tree? Such I estimate to be the position 
of Orestes and Perion. Ah, no, this Perion who 

[188] 



A BARGAIN IS CRIED 

was my captain once is as yet a lord without any 
peer in the fields where men contend in battle. 
But love has thrust him into a bag's end, and his 
fate is certain." 

She spoke her steadfast resolution. "And my 
fate, too. For when Perion is trapped and slain 
I mean to kill myself." 

"I am aware of that," he said. "Oh, women 
have these notions! Yet at a pinch I think you 
would not dare. For I know your beliefs con- 
cerning hell's geography, and which particular 
gulf of hell is reserved for all self-murderers." 

Then Melicent waited for a while. She spoke 
without any modulation. "And how should I 
fear hell who crave a bitterer fate ! Listen, Aha- 
suerus ! I know that you desire me as a plaything 
very greatly. The infamy in which you wade 
attests as much. Yet you have schemed to no 
purpose if Perion dies, because the ways of death 
are always open. I would die many times rather 
than endure the touch of your finger. Aha- 
suerus, I have not any words wherewith to tell 
you of my loathing — " 

[i8 9 ] 



THE SOUL OF M E L I C E N T 

"Turn then to bargaining," he said, and 
seemed aware of all her thoughts. 

"Oh, to a hideous bargain. Let Perion be 
warned of those troops that will to-morrow out- 
flank him. Let him escape. There is yet time. 
Do this, O hungry man, and I will live." She 
shuddered here. "Yes, I will live and be obedient 
in all things to you, my purchaser, until you shall 
have wearied of me, or, at the least, until God has 
remembered." 

His careful eyes were narrowed. 

"You would bribe me as you once bribed Deme- 
trios? And to the same purpose? I think that 
fate excels less in invention than in cruelty." 

She bitterly said : "Heaven help me, and what 
other wares have I to vend!" 

He answered: "None. No woman has in 
this black age; and therefore comfort you, my 
girl." 

She hurried on. "Therefore anew I offer 
Melicent, who was a princess once. I cry a price 
for red lips and bright eyes and a fair woman's 
tender body without any blemish. I have no 

[190] 



A BARGAIN IS CRIED 

longer youth and happiness and honour to afford 
you as your toys. These three have long been 
strangers to me. Oh, very long ! Yet all I have 
I offer for one charitable deed. See now how 
near you are to victory. Think now how glori- 
ously one honest act would show in you who have 
betrayed each overlord you ever served." 

He said: "I am suspicious of strange paths. 
My plan is fixed. I think I shall not alter it." 

"Ah, no, Ahasuerus ! think instead how beau- 
tiful I am. There is no comelier animal in all this 
big lewd world. Indeed I cannot count how many 
men have died because I was a comely animal — " 
She smiled as one who is too tired to weep. 
"That, too, is an old tale. Now I abate in value, 
it appears, and very lamentably. For I am pur- 
chasable now just by one honest deed, and there is 
none who will barter with me." 

He returned: "You forget that a freed Pe- 
rion would always have a sonorous word or two 
to say in regard to your bargainings. Demetrios 
bargained, you may remember. Demetrios was 
a dread lord. It cost him daily warfare to retain 

[191] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

you. Now I lack swords and castles — I who 
dare love you much as Demetrios did — and I 
would be able to retain neither Melicent nor, 
very possibly, my own existence for an uncon- 
scionable while. Ah, no ! I bear my former gen- 
eral no grudge. I merely recognise that while 
Perion lives he will not ever leave pursuit of you. 
I would readily concede the potency of his spurs, 
even were there need to look on you a second 
time — It happens that there is no need! 
Meanwhile I am a quiet man and I abhor dis- 
sension. And for the rest, I do not think that 
you will kill yourself, and so I think I shall not 
alter my fixed plan." 

He left her, and Melicent prayed no more. To 
what end should she pray when there was no hope 
for Perion ? 



[192] 



XI 

HOW THE JEW TOLD ALL HIS PLAN 

INTO Melicent's bedroom, about two o'clock 
in the morning, came Ahasuerus the Jew. 
She sat erect in bed and saw him cowering 
over a lamp which his long glistening fingers 
shielded, so that the lean face of the man floated 
upon a little golden pool in the darkness. She 
marvelled that this detestable countenance had 
not aged at all since her first sight of it. 

He smoothly said : "Now let us talk. I have 
loved you for a great while, fair Melicent." 
"You have desired me," she replied. 
"Faith, I am but as other men. Why, what 
the devil ! man may have Javeh's breath in him, 
but even Scripture proves that he was made of 
clay." He now puffed out his jaws as if in recol- 
lection. "You are a handsome piece of flesh, I 
thought when I came to you at Bellegarde, tell- 
ing of Perion's captivity. I thought no more 

[193] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

than this. Because of an odd reason which I 
had, I served Demetrios willingly enough. He 
paid me well. So I arranged the bungling snare 
Demetrios proposed — too gross, I thought it, to 
trap any woman living. Ohe, and why should I 
not lay an open and frank springe for you ? Who 
else was a king's bride-to-be, young, beautiful, 
and blessed with wealth and honour and every 
other comfort which the world affords?" Now 
the Jew made as if to fling away a robe from his 
gaunt person. "And you cast this, all this, aside 
as nothing. I saw it done." 

"Ah, but I did it to save Perion," she wisely 
said. 

"Unfathomable liar," he returned, "you boldly 
bought of life the thing which you most earnestly 
desired. Nor Solomon nor Periander has won 
more. And thus I saw that which no other man 
has seen. I saw the wise and naked soul of Meli- 
cent. And so I loved you, and I laid my plan — " 

She said : "You do not know of love — " 

"Yet I have builded him a temple," the Jew 
considered. He continued, with that old abhor- 

[194] 



THE JEW TELLS ALL 

rent acquiescence: "Now, a temple is admira- 
ble, but it is not builded until many labourers have 
dug and toiled waist-deep in dirt. Here, too, 
such spatterment seemed necessary. For you and 
Perion — oh, children lost upon a battle-field! I 
played, in fine, I played a cunning music. The 
high pride of Demetrios, the hatred of Callistion, 
and the ambition of Orestes — these were as so 
many stops of that flute on which I played a cun- 
ning deadly music. Who forbids it?" 

She motioned him: "Go on." Now she was 
not afraid. 

"Come then to the last note. You offer me a 
bargain : Save Perion and have my body as your 
chattel. I answer Click! The turning of a key 
solves all. Accordingly I have betrayed the cas- 
tle of Nacumera, I have this night admitted Pe- 
rion and his broad-shouldered men. They are 
killing Orestes yonder in the Court of Stars even 
while I talk with you." Ahasuerus laughed 
noiselessly. "Such vanity does not become a 
Jew, but I need must do the thing with some 
magnificence. Therefore I do not give Sire Pe- 

[195] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

rion only his life. I give him also victory and 
much throat-cutting and an impregnable rich cas- 
tle. Have I not paid the price, fair Melicent? 
Have I not won God's masterpiece through a 
small wire, a purse, and a big key?" 

She answered : "You have paid." 

He said: "You will hold to your bargain? 
Ah, you have but to cry aloud, and you are rid 
of me. For this is Perion's castle." 

She said: "Christ help me! You have paid 
the price." 

Now the Jew raised his two hands in very hor- 
rible mirth. 

"Oh, I am almost tempted to praise Javeh. 
Because of a word said you would arise and fol- 
low me on my dark ways if I commanded it. You 
will not weight the dice, not even at this pinch, 
when it would be so easy! For Perion is safe, 
and nothing matters any more. Again I see my 
Melicent who is not just a pair of purple eyes and 
so much lovely flesh." 

His face was as she had not ever known it now, 
and very tender. 

[i 9 6] 



THE JEW TELLS ALL 

"My way to victory is plain enough. And yet 
there is an obstacle. For I love Melicent and not 
that handsome piece of flesh which all men — oh, 
and even Perion, I think! — have loved so long 
with remarkable infatuation. Accordingly I had 
not ever designed that the edifice on which I la- 
boured should be the stable of my lusts. Accord- 
ingly I played my cunning music — and accord- 
ingly I give you Perion. I that am Ahasuerus 
win for you all which righteousness and honour 
could not win. / give you Perion — He would 
still be about his butchery, I think, in the Court of 
Stars." 

Ahasuerus knelt, kissing her hand. 

"Fair Melicent, such abominable persons as 
Demetrios and I are fatally alike. We may 
deny, deride, deplore, or even hate, the sanctity 
of any noble lady accordingly as we elect; but 
there is for us no possible escape from worship- 
ping it. Your wind-fed Perions, who will not 
ever acknowledge what sort of world we live in, 
are less quick to recognise the soul of Melicent. 
Such is our sorry consolation. Oh, you do not 

[197] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

believe me yet. You will believe. Meanwhile, 
O all-enduring and all-conquering! go now to 
your last labour; and — if my Brother dare con- 
cede as much — now conquer even Perion." 

Then he vanished. She never saw him any 
more. 



[198] 



XII 

HOW PERION FOUND MELlCENT 

SHE lifted the Jew's lamp. She bore it 
through the Women's Garden, wherein 
were many discomfortable shadows and no 
living being. She came to its outer entrance. 
Men were fighting there. She skirted a hideous 
conflict, and descended the Queen's Stairway, 
which led (as you have heard) toward the bal- 
cony about the Court of Stars. She found this 
balcony vacant. 

Below her men were fighting. To the farther 
end of the court Orestes sprawled upon the red 
and yellow slabs — which now for the most part 
were red — and above him towered Perion of the 
Forest. The conqueror had turned to cleanse his 
sword upon the same divan Demetrios had oc- 
cupied when Melicent first saw the dead procon- 
sul; and midway in the act he perceived the fa- 
miliar denizen of all his dreams. A tiny lamp 
glowed in her hand quite steadily. 

[199] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

"O Melicent," said Perion, with a great voice, 
"my task is done. Come now to me." 

She instantly obeyed whose only joy was to 
please Perion. Descending the enclosed stair- 
way, she thought how like its gloom was to the 
fleet unhappiness she had passed through in serv- 
ing Perion. 

He stood a dripping statue, for he had fought 
horribly. She came to him, picking her way 
among the slain. He trembled who was fresh 
from slaying. A flood of torchlight surged and 
swirled about them, and within a stone's cast 
shouting men killed one another. 

These two stood face to face and did not speak 
at all. 

I think that he knew disappointment first. He 
looked to find the girl whom he had left on Fomor 
Beach. 

He found a woman, the possessor still of a 
compelling beauty. Oh, yes, past doubt. She 
was a stranger to him, though, as he now knew 

[ 200 ] 



PERION FINDS MELICENT 

with an odd sense of sickness. Thus, then, would 
end the quest of Melicent. Their love had 
flouted Time and Fate. These had revenged this 
insolence, it seemed to Perion, by an ironical con- 
version of each rebel into another person. For 
this was not the girl whom Perion had loved in 
far red-roofed Poictesme ; and he — as Perion for 
the first time perceived — was not and never could 
be any more the Perion that girl had bidden re- 
turn to her. It were as easy to evoke the Perion 
who had loved Melusine. . . . 

Then Perion perceived that love may be a 
power so august as to bedwarf consideration of 
the man and woman whom it sways. He saw 
that this is reasonable. I cannot justify this 
knowledge. I cannot even word just what it was 
that Perion was made aware of in this while. 
For many men have seen the sunrise, but the 
serenity and awe and sweetness of this daily mira- 
cle, the huge assurance which it emanates that 
the beholder is both impotent and greatly beloved, 
is not entirely an affair of the sky's tincture. And 

[201] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

thus it was with Perion. He knew what he could 
not explain, he knew such joy and terror as he 
could not ever word. 

Now he saw Melicent for the first time. . . . 

I think he saw the lines already forming in her 
face, and knew that, but for him, this woman, 
naked now of gear and friends, had been to-night 
a queen among her own acclaiming people. I 
think he worshipped where he did not dare to 
love, as every man cannot but do when starkly 
fronted by the divine and stupendous unreason 
of a woman's choice, among so many other men, 
of him. And yet, I think that Perion recalled 
what Ayrart de Montors had said of women and 
their love, so long ago: — "They are more wise 
than we; and always they make us better by in- 
domitably believing we are better than in reality 
a man can ever be." 

I think that Perion knew, now, de Montors had 
been in the right. The pity and mystery and 
beauty of that world wherein High God had — 
scornfully ?— thrust a smug Perion, seemed to the 
Comte de la Foret, I think, unbearable. I think 

[ 202 ] 



PERION FINDS MELICENT 

a new and finer love smote Perion as a sword 
strikes. 

I think he did not speak because there was no 
scope for words. I know he knelt (incurious for 
once of even victory) before this stranger who 
was not the Melicent whom he had sought so 
long, and that all consideration of a lost young 
Melicent departed from him, as mists leave our 
world when the sun rises. 

I think that this was her high hour of triumph. 



CETERA DESUNT 



[203] 



AFTERWORD 

Thus, rather suddenly, ends our knowledge of 
the love-business between Perion and Melicent. 
For at this point, as abruptly as it began, the 
one existing chronicle of their adventures makes 
conclusion, like a bit of interrupted music, and 
thereby affords conjecture no inconsiderable 
bounds wherein to exercise itself. Yet, since de- 
ductions as to what befell these lovers afterward 
can at best result in free-handed theorising, it 
seems more profitable in this place to speak very 
briefly of that fragmentary manuscript, the 
Roman de Lusignan, from which the histories of 
Melicent and Perion as set forth in this book 
claim only to have been retold. 

M. Verville, in his monograph on Nicolas de 
Caen, 1 considers it probable that the Roman de 

1 Paul Verville, Notice sur la vie de Nicolas de Caen, p. 112 
(Rouen, 1911). 

[205] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

Lusignan was printed in Bruges by Colard Man- 
sion at about the same time Mansion published 
the Dizain des Reines. This is possible ; but until 
a copy of the book is discovered, our sole au- 
thority for the romance must continue to be the 
fragmentary MS. No. 503 in the Allonbian Col- 
lection. 

Among the innumerable manuscripts in the 
British Museum there is perhaps none which 
opens a wider field for guesswork. In its en- 
tirety the Roman de Lusignan was, if appear- 
ances are to be trusted, a leisured and ambitious 
handling of the Melusina legend ; but in the pre- 
served portion Melusina figures hardly at all. 
We have merely the final chapters of what would 
seem to have been the first half, or perhaps the 
first third, of the complete narrative ; so that this 
manuscript account of Melusina's beguilements 
breaks off, fantastically, at a period by many 
years anterior to a date which those better known 
versions of Jean d' Arras and Thuring von Ringol- 
tingen select as the only appropriate starting- 
point. 

[ 206 ] 



AFTERWORD 



By means of a few elisions, however, the epi- 
sodic story of Melicent and of the men who loved 
Melicent has been disembedded from what sur- 
vives of the main narrative. This episode may 
reasonably be considered as complete in itself, in 
spite of its precipitous commencement ; we are not 
told anything very definite concerning Perion's 
earlier relations with Melusina, it is true, but then 
they are hardly of any especial importance. And 
speculations as to the tale's perplexing chronol- 
ogy, or as to the curious treatment of the Aha- 
suerus legend, wherein Nicolas so strikingly dif- 
fers from his precursors, Matthew Paris and 
Philippe Mouskes, or as to the probable course 
of latter incidents in the romance (which must 
almost inevitably have reached its climax in the 
foundation of the house of Lusignan by Perion's 
son Raymond and Melusina) are more profitably 
left to M. Verville's ingenuity. 

One feature, though, of this romance demands 
particular comment. The happenings of the 
Melicent-episode pivot remarkably upon domnei 

[207] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

— upon chivalric love, upon the Frowendienst of 
the minnesingers, or upon "lady-worship," as we 
might bunglingly translate a word for which in 
English there is no precisely equivalent synonym. 
But the contemporaries of Nicolas de Caen were 
thoroughly conversant with, and industriously be- 
lauded, this obsolete, odd form of love — at once 
a malady and a religion, quite incommunicably 
blended — which they called domnei. 

Thus you will find that Dante — to cite only the 
most readily accessible of mediaeval amorists — 
enlarges as to domnei in both these aspects impar- 
tially. Domnei suspends all his senses save that 
of sight, makes him turn pale, causes tremors 
in his left side, and sends him to bed "like a little 
beaten child, in tears"; throughout you have the 
manifestations of domnei described in terms be- 
fitting the symptoms of a physical disease alone; 
but as concerns the other aspect, Dante never 
wearies of reiterating that it is domnei which has 
turned his thoughts toward God, and with ter- 
rible sincerity he beholds in Beatrice de' Bardi. 
the highest illumination which Divine Grace may 

[208] 



AFTERWORD 



permit to humankind. "This is no woman; 
rather it is one of heaven's most radiant angels," 
he says with terrible sincerity. 

With terrible sincerity, let it be repeated; for 
the service of domnei was never, as some would 
affect to interpret it, a modish and ordered affec- 
tation; the histories of Peire de Maenzac, of 
Guillaume de Caibestaing, of Geoffrey Rudel, of 
Ulrich von Liechtenstein, of the Monk of Pucibot, 
of Pons de Capdueilh, and even of Peire Vidal 
and Guillaume de Balaun, survive to prove it was 
a serious thing, a stark and life-disposing reality. 
En cor gentil domnei per mort no passa, as Nico- 
las himself declares. The service of domnei in- 
volved, it in fact invited, anguish; it was a mar- 
tyrdom whereby the lover was uplifted to saint- 
ship and the lady to little less than, if anything less 
than, godhead. 

For it was a canon of domnei, it was the very 
essence of domnei, that the woman one loves is 
providentially set between her lover's apprehen- 
sions and God as the mobile and vital image and 
corporeal reminder of heaven, as a quick symbol 

[209] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

of beauty and holiness, of purity and perfection. 
In her the lover views — embodied, apparent to 
human sense, and even accessible to human enter- 
prise — all qualities of God which can be compre- 
hended by merely human faculties. It is pre- 
cisely as such an intermediary that Melicent 
figures toward Perion, and, in a somewhat differ- 
ing degree, toward Ahasuerus — since Ahasuerus 
is of necessity apart in all things from the run of 
humanity. 

Yet instances were not lacking in the service 
of domnei where worship of the symbol devel- 
oped into a religion sufficing in itself, and became 
competitor with worship of what the symbol pri- 
marily represented — such instances as have their 
analogues in the legend of Ritter Tannhauser, or 
in Aucas sin's resolve in the romance to go down 
into hell with "his sweet mistress whom he so 
much loves," or (here perhaps most perfectly ex- 
ampled) in Arnaud de Mer veil's naive declara- 
tion that whatever portion of his heart belongs to 
God heaven holds in vassalage to Adelaide de 
Beziers. It is upon this darker and rebellious 

[210] 



AFTERWORD 



side of domnei, of a religion pathetically dragged 
dustward by the luxuriance and efflorescence of 
over-passionate service, that Nicolas has touched 
in depicting Demetrios. 

Nicolas de Caen, himself the servitor par 
amours of Isabella of Burgundy, has elsewhere 
written of domnei (in his Le Roi Amaury) in 
terms such as it may not be entirely out of place 
to transcribe here. Baalzebub, as you may re- 
member, has been discomfited in his endeavours 
to ensnare King Amaury and is withdrawing in 
disgust. 

"A pest upon this domnei!" 1 the fiend growls. 
"Nay, the match is at an end, and I may speak 
in perfect candour now. I swear to you that, 
given a man clear-eyed enough to see that a 
woman by ordinary is nourished much as he is 
nourished, and is subjected to every bodily in- 
firmity which he endures and frets beneath, I do 
not often bungle matters. But when a fool be- 
gins to flounder about the world, dead-drunk with 

1 Quoted with minor alterations from Watson's version. 
[211] 



THE SOUL OF MELICENT 

adoration of an immaculate woman — a monster 
which, as even the man's own judgment assures 
him, does not exist and never will exist — why, 
he becomes as unmanageable as any other maniac 
when a frenzy is upon him. For then the idiot 
hungers after a life so high-pitched that his gross 
faculties may not so much as glimpse it; he is so 
rapt with impossible dreams that he becomes ob- 
livious to the nudgings of his most petted vice; 
and he abhors his own innate and perfectly nat- 
ural inclination to cowardice, and filth, and self- 
deception. He, in fine, affords me and all other 
rational people no available handle; and, in con- 
sequence, he very often flounders beyond the 
reach of my whisperings. There may be other 
persons who can inform you why such blatant 
folly should thus be the master-word of evil, but 
for my own part, I confess to ignorance.'' 

"Nay, that folly, as you term it, and as hell will 
always term it, is alike the riddle and the master- 
word of the universe," the old king replies. 

And Nicolas whole-heartedly believed that this 

[212] 



AFTERWORD 



was true. We do not believe this, quite, but it 
may be that we are none the happier for our 
dubiety. 



EXPLICIT 



[213] 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

(All printed versions, so far as known, 
of the Roman de Lusignan.) 

I. Armageddon; or the Great Day of the Lord's 
Judgement: a Parcenesis to Prince Henry — 
Melicent ; an heroicke poeme intended, drawne 
from French bookes, the First Booke, by Sir 
William Allonby. London, 1636. 
II. Les Amants de Melicent, Traduction moderne, 
annotee et procedee d'un notice historique sur 
Nicolas de Caen, par l'Abbe * * * Paris, 1788. 

III. Perion und Melicent, zum erstenmale aus dem 

Franzosischen ins Deutsche iibersetzt, von 
J. H. G. Lowe. Stuttgart und Tubingen, 1823. 

IV. Los Negociantes do Don Perion, publicado 

por Plancher-Seignot. Rio de Janiero, 1827. 
The translator's name is not given. 
V. La donna di Demetrio, Historia piacevole e 
morale, da Antonio Checino. Milan, 1833. 
VI. Prindsesses Melicent, oversat af Le Roman de 
Lusignan, og udgivna paa Dansk vid R. Knos. 
Copenhagen, 1840. 
VII. Antique Fabul^e et Comedle, edid. G. Rask. 
Gottingen, 1852. Vol. II, p. 61 et seq. "De 
Fide Melicentis" — an abridged version of the 
romance. 
VIII. Perion en Melicent, voor de Nederlandsche 
Jeugduiitgegeven door J. M. L. Wolters. 
Groningen, 1862. 

[215] 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



IX. NOUVELLES FrANQOISES EN PROSE DU XIVe ET 

du XVe siecle, Les textes anciens, edites et 
annotes par MM. Armin et Moland. Lyons, 
1880. Vol. IV, p. 89 et seq., "Le Roman de 
la Belle Melicent" — an abridgement. 
X. The Soul of Melicent, Roman de Lusignan, 

by James Branch Cabell. New York, 19 13. 
XL Cinq Ballades de Nicolas de Caen, traduites 
en verse du Roman de Lusignan, par Mme. 
Adolphe Galland, et mises en musique par 
Raoul Bidoche. Paris, 1898. 



[216] 



Deacidified using the Bookkeeper process. 
Neutralizing agent: Magnesium Oxide 
Treatment Date: Sept. 2009 

PreservationTechnologies 

A WORLD LEADER IN COLLECTIONS PRESERVATION 

111 Thomson Park Drive 
Cranberry Township, PA 16066 
(724)779-2111 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 

mmnnii 

018 602 386 9 



¥